It is the end of a major effort and the beginning of a new era. With the conclusion of the five-year Water and Development Alliance (WADA) programme, in three of Madagascar’s biggest cities, the country is ready to build on its legacy to continue improving its water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services. WADA comes to an end, but the work of authorities and the national water utility, with the support of local communities, continues.
Having run between June 2017 and June 2022, WADA addressed many challenges in water distribution, sanitation services, and hygiene practices faced by low-income communities in Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, and in the cities of Mahajanga, in the north, and Toliara, in the south. From the installation of WASH facilities near homes to increasing capacity of staff within JIRAMA, the national utility, WADA has dealt with urgent problems of the past, alleviated conditions of the present, and set the ground for further improvements in the future.
The five-year programme has been funded by The Coca Cola Foundation (TCCF), the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and several other members of this unique public-private partnership. Together, they have invested USD 8.5 million. Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) has implemented the programme, in partnership with the Global Environment & Technology Foundation (GETF) and JIRAMA.
Water closer to home
One of the main missions of WADA was to create better conditions for the local population to access clean water. For many, the main obstacle for easier access has always been the distance, so hundreds of WASH facilities have been installed nearer the homes of residents.
“The kiosk is near us, we have clean water every day”, says Mbola Rasamimanana, resident of Soalandy, in Antananarivo, about the new facility installed as part of WADA. The fact that fetching water is no longer an activity taking too much of her time means she can now dedicate herself to other commitments, including paid work. “We have more time for income-generating activities, as we no longer go far to fetch water and wash our clothes.”
Easier access to clean water has improved an aspect of life even more important than economic activities: health. “Before the provision of potable water by the WADA project, we were often in poor health”, says Ms Rasamimanana. “Children were often sick.” That reality is, thankfully, now behind her and her family. “Now we are in good health.” According to Yves Arsène Rakotondranaivo, Deputy Mayor of the Soalandy Commune, the new structures installed by WADA benefit 65% of the residents in the commune of Soalandy Ankadivoribe.
In its five years, WADA built a total of 361 WASH facilities in Antananarivo, Mahajanga and Toliara. While the water kiosks have been the main highlight, with a total 248 brand new ones built, schools have also benefited significantly, receiving 22 either new or refurbished toilet blocks, which have improved the overall hygiene conditions of children.
Communities have also been enjoying the facilities and social interactions provided by the 16 new communal laundry blocks, where the task of washing clothes also works as an engaging gathering of neighbours. Another important intervention was the connection of six water tanks to the water supply network and 60 new connections shared by different households, benefiting over 600 families.
Capacity for the future
The five years of the WADA programme brought improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene to more than 500,000 people in Antananarivo, Mahajanga and Toliara. It was a much-needed support for Madagascar’s population, especially considering the size of the challenges in the country in the WASH sector. According to the World Bank, around 80% of Madagascar’s population live in poverty, which means that a significant share of the residents in big cities lack access to basic water services. In Antananarivo, around 12% of the 3.2 million people do not access clean water. In Mahajanga and Toliara, that share is estimated at 11% and 16%, respectively. In sanitation, those numbers are even more dramatic: 70% in the capital, 75% in Mahjanga, and 78% in Toliara.
Changing the country’s reality more significantly will require time and sustained efforts in the future, for which WADA has also provided foundations. “We have benefited from WASH facilities, such as laundry blocks and water kiosks, and also capacity building for the management of these infrastructures”, says Mr Rakotondranaivo.
The management of those facilities was handed to autonomous associations, under the supervision of the communes. This arrangement has guaranteed that local capacity was gradually built, and knowledge consistently transferred, ensuring the smooth operation of facilities and services after the formal ending of the WADA programme.
“We monitor the operation of the WASH facilities and the activities of the water kiosk agents”, explains Viviane Harilalao, President of Mirindra Association. “We also monitor the revenue and its transfer from the fund manager to the Water User Association Treasurer.”
The focus on the future is also clear in the investment WADA has made in children’s hygiene. The construction of new WASH facilities in schools and the hygiene education programmes mean that very young Malagasy people will incorporate healthier lifestyles and a better understanding of public health, things they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
“We have sensitised and trained teachers and students”, says Ravaka Tefisoa Rakotobe, Director of the Belanitra Public School, in Antanannarivo. Amongst many other newly adopted tasks embraced by both school staff and pupils, was the establishment of a “School Garden”, which works as a learning place for the children and has generated cabbage and parsley that have been sold or consumed in the school’s canteen.
What makes Ms Rakotobe particularly proud, however, is the overall recognition of the transformation that has taken place – and which included new toilets, showers, drinking water station and rubbish facility. Her school obtained the WASH Friendly School Certification Level 3, a status awarded by the Ministry of Education, after evaluation done in collaboration with the ministries of WASH and Public Health.
The certification requires the school to have access to potable water; use of hygienic WASH facilities, including hygienic latrine; hygiene promotion as part of the curricula, with practice by the students; a school WASH Committee to ensure operation and maintenance. Level 3 is the best score of them all – and that is why Ms Rakotobe, her team and their students are adamant to keep it for good. “As a strategy to maintain WASH-Friendly Level 3, we have set up an organisation, by class, for the use, cleaning, and maintenance of WASH facilities.” If a school manages to maintain the Level 3 for several years, it receives the label of “WASH Friendly School”.
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An improved utility
WADA’s initiatives to improve the operations of Madagascar’s national utility, JIRAMA, have also focused on the years ahead. From new equipment for laboratories responsible for water quality testing to training and technology aiming at reducing non-water revenue (both physical and commercial losses), the programme has prepared JIRAMA for a much more ambitious future, characterised by growth in water distribution and higher quality of its services.
“We have received several kits for the JIRAMA Laboratory from WADA, including molecular absorption and atomic absorption spectrophotometer, precision balance, PH meter, gamma ray measuring device, and the oven”, lists proudly Pascale Rakotomahanina, Manager at the Water Quality Management Department, in Antananarivo. Similar investment in JIRAMA’s testing facilities in Mahajanga gave the city even more valuable tools for its work: speed and autonomy.
“The acquisition of equipment from the WADA project now allows us to do many types of analysis on site in Mahajanga”, says Edward Randrianirina, Head of JIRAMA’s Water Quality Section. Amongst the tasks his team can now perform independently from the capital are bacteriological analysis and detection of toxic elements.
WADA has achieved all the above, and much more, while establishing strong ties with the communities involved, from the very beginning. This has particularly been the case with the female population, which has been directly involved in the changes and benefited from economic opportunities they have created.
“The project ensured the involvement of all local stakeholders and took care of the most vulnerable people, notably women”, says Sylvie Ramanantsoa, WSUP’s Country Manager in Madagascar.
WADA comes to a close having transformed the water, sanitation, and hygiene reality of hundreds of thousands of residents in three major cities of Madagascar. After five years, based on the many accomplishments of the project, the seeds for a much better future in the country’s WASH system are now planted. Embraced by local authorities, utility, and communities, the journey towards continuous and constant improvement has only just begun.
Read also: The stepping stones for sustainable water
Top image: residents using laundry block built as part of the WADA programme, in the commune of Soalandy
The WADA Madagascar project was also funded by UK aid from the Government of the United Kingdom, Dubai Cares, Cartier Philanthropy, OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), The Halcrow Foundation, and JIRAMA.