Community mobilisation in rural water supply and sanitation programs: How effective is it? "A case of Wakiso District, Uganda"
Twebaze, Julia Billiart
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Community mobilisation is carried out in water supply and sanitation programs to stimulate the community to be active in demanding what they need, and actively participating in solving their own problems. In Uganda, as in many developing countries, community mobilisation is used and employs a number of tools namely promotional water and sanitation campaigns, use of informational flyers, posters, electronic and the print media, staging drama shows, and media talk shows. These tools are usually used in combination. The study’s broad objective was to assess the extent to which the community mobilization approach used in developing countries, taking Wakiso District, Uganda as a case, were successful in improving the operational status of water and sanitation facilities. Particularly, the study set out to establish the appropriateness of the content of the mobilization message, the impact of community mobilization on community participation in rural water supply programs, and the challenges affecting the effectiveness of community mobilization and participation. Data was collected on sixty purposefully selected rural water facilities provided by the government of Uganda in the study area. One hundred and twenty participants were interviewed representing the community served by the sixty water facilities. The information provided by the communities was corroborated with information from the water facility providers at district and central government level. The study established that overall, the approach used to mobilise the communities was effective and successfully improved the participation of the user communities in the operation and maintenance of the water facilities. The success of the approach was shown by the interviewed communities having followed the recommended ways for applying for water sources and meeting the requirements for provision of water facilities including cash contributions and establishing water user committees with high women representation. A high proportion (95%) of the water facilities were functional, and many of community members (67%) were directly involved in the operation and maintenance of the water facilities. All the above factors point to the effectiveness of the mobilisation that was carried out. Despite the success of the mobilisation, the research established a number of challenges that continue to affect the community and pose a threat to the sustainable operation and maintenance of the water facilities. The main challenges, in order of decreasing importance, are the absence of men (who dominate participation in mobilisation events) in the day-to-day use of the facility (i.e. fetching water), the use of the facilities mainly by children who do not attend mobilisation events, the difficulty of procuring spare parts related to general poverty and the difficulty of raising cash contributions, and the high number of users per water facility. These challenges point to a need to refine the mobilisation approach to be able to address them. The study recommended continuous mobilization in the life time of the facilities, improvement of information concerning sourcing of spare parts, overcoming cultural disparities between men, children and women and recognition of the vital role played by children and therefore to focus mobilization efforts towards children that has hitherto been to old people alone..