Improving access to WASH services in Cape Verde: learning from the community
This project has provided practical guidance on how to improve equitable access to better quality water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector services in Cape Verde.
Research has shown that the poorest and most vulnerable communities within the country are the least likely to have access to adequate WASH infrastructure, with women amongst the most marginalized. The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) is supporting the Government of Cape Verde to address these issues over a three year period.
Our team used an innovative qualitative research approach to understand household- and individual-level needs and provide guidance to the MCA on how to incorporate social and gender issues into the design of WASH interventions. We conducted Focus Group Discussion and Key Informant Interviews within ten communities and used rapid feedback to discuss the results with local stakeholders during the fieldwork itself. To date, our recommendations have been used by MCA Cape Verde in the development of the utility in the island of Santiago and the creation of the future Department of Social and Gender Issues within the National Water and Sanitation Agency (ANAS).
A critically water-scarce country, Cape Verde has one of the highest water tariffs in the world. Poorer communities are disproportionately affected with limited access to improved, sustainable water and sanitation coverage. Within these communities, access is further stratified according to social and gender issues, with the most vulnerable members -including women – experiencing even greater marginalisation.
In 2012, the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) allocated USD $66 million to the Government of Cape Verde to support basic service provision over a five year period. Almost two-thirds of this financial support has been earmarked for improving the country’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector, highlighting the importance of the issue and the scale of the problem.
The MCA WASH programme aims to reform national policy and regulatory institutions, transform historically inefficient utilities into autonomous financial and administrative corporations and improve the quality and reach of WASH infrastructure. To achieve these aims, WASH initiatives must address the fundamental social and gender inequalities that act to exclude certain groups from accessing a sustainable, clean water supply. To be effectively tackled, these issues must be fully incorporated at design stage rather than simply being added-on as considerations after initiatives are up and running.
This project was established to help ensure that every component of the MCA WASH programme adequately addresses the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society in Cape Verde. It provided guidance for the assessment of social and gender issues in the WASH sector, helped inform national and utility priorities and supported planning and monitoring and evaluation activities.
Our expert team used an innovative community research approach to help inform and improve the design of MCA WASH initiatives and guide subsequent infrastructure investments.
We designed and conducted a programme of qualitative research including Focus Group Discussions and Key Informant Interviews within ten local communities. The outcomes of discussions were fed-back to the respondents in a fully consultative process that gave community members the opportunity to shape the process and ensure their views and needs were fully captured at all stages. This approach helped to better frame the issues being addressed and support robust, inclusive analysis.
Our team completed the following activities:
- Undertaking literature and documentation reviews and developing key research questions;
- Conducting stakeholder discussions with MCA members and developing draft recommendations and areas for assessment for each of the programme components;
- Designing and conducting a programme of qualitative fieldwork including key informant interviews (KIIs) and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) incorporating an innovative community feedback approach
- Developing strategic recommendations for the MCA including those for institutional- and utility-level reforms and infrastructure investment selection criteria and processes
By providing the first in-depth study on gender and social issues in the WASH sector in Cape Verde, this project has helped improve understanding around the often-overlooked factors that influence access to water resources in the country.
Our recommendations are being incorporated into plans for institutional and regulatory reform in the sector including the transition of service providers to autonomous corporations. Importantly, by incorporating strategies at the planning stage, our work should help ensure that vulnerable groups such as women and the poor are not only considered but that their specific needs are adequately met.
In particular, this study has provided the foundation for the creation of a utility for the island of Santiago, and will potentially be used in the development of utilities in other areas. The future National Water and Sanitation Agency (ANAS) encompasses a Department for Gender and Social Issues, for which this study will also serve as an important point of reference.
More broadly, by highlighting the importance of providing feedback to study respondents, this project has provided a blueprint for the design of subsequent qualitative research in this, and other, sectors.