Any work on sanitation improvement is carried out within a framework of household, community and governmental relationships, all of which affect the manner in which a programme is executed. Of major importance are the organizations or institutions that have been given responsibility for or have an interest in some aspect of sanitation improvement. Such bodies may be governmental ministries, departments of ministries, urban municipalities, rural councils, nongovernmental agencies or recognized organizations.
In this book, a body outside the local community which takes primary responsibility for initiating, promoting, supervising or otherwise supporting a sanitation improvement project is generally referred to as an agency in order to distinguish it from other interested institutions. This agency may be a sectoral institution or a part of an institution. It may also be a special multidisciplinary team drawn from several institutions or even a nongovernmental organization working under the authority of a governmental institution.
Projects or programmes
Improvements to sanitation practices involve projects and programmes. Projects are specific tasks with realizable goals within a specified time period. Programmes are continuous undertakings with long-term objectives. Protecting people and their environment from excreta-related disease and pollution is a continuous task which requires the responsible agency to take a long-term, programme approach.
Projects may be of vital importance to give a short-term boost to the sanitation programme and to enable people to make the next incremental improvement in their facilities. However, every project should be clearly related to existing sanitation programmes, with the relevant staff and institutions understanding its nature and objectives.
Allocation of responsibility
Government ministries of health, water supply, rural development, local government, agriculture, and social welfare, and local government councils may all have an interest in sanitation. This concern may be at central, regional or local level. Ministries of finance and economic planning may also wish to exert some control. For a programme to succeed, there should be one lead agency, with a designated officer or management committee which has the responsibility and authority to take executive action.
Integration of sectoral responsibilities
Nomination of a lead agency does not free other institutions from responsibility for a programme. Under their own terms of reference, they may want to play an active role in the promotion of sanitation, and may be able to provide specialist skills and inputs that are of vital importance. Consequently, it is necessary to define the responsibilities of all associated institutions, agencies and government officers at an early stage. The degree of involvement of any body will vary considerably according to the nature of the programme, the type of organization and other national and local conditions.
A forum or meeting for open discussion of needs and concerns may be of value. From this an intersectoral advisory committee can be drawn for more regular discussions of progress. However, it remains advisable to have a single lead agency responsible for decision-making rather than an intersectoral committee.
Specialized sanitation support teams
Where a sanitation programme is being given a new impetus it is often found that the staff already have too many duties to be able to take on significant roles in a new project. Staff must either be released from other duties or new personnel appointed. The creation of a multidisciplinary "sanitation improvement team" may be an effective means of encouraging progress. However, the relation of such a team to the existing organizational structure should be defined, particularly with regard to its eventual re-absorption as part of the overall programme.
Specialized teams or agencies, where properly constituted, are often able to bypass the bureaucratic procedures and delays that exist in all institutions. Particularly where unconventional, community-based approaches are used, considerable flexibility is required from the facilitating agency. For example, staff may need to attend community meetings in the evenings or extension workers may need to make home visits when householders are home from work. Extra payment for overtime, or time off in exchange for late working, may have to be arranged.
Flexibility within the institution and support team
As discussed in Chapter 11, there are considerable advantages in mobilizing the people, particularly with regard to the long-term sustainability of the improvements. However, in the short term there is no guarantee that the people will respond to the extent and at the rate desired by the agency.
The role of the agency may be made more difficult by non-acceptance of the preferred design standards, slow take-up of credits or materials, unfulfilled budgets, lengthy construction times and uncompleted objectives. Particularly where outside donors are involved, there will be a pressure to produce measurable results. The agency has to organize its budgets and work plans in such a way that donors and any sponsoring institutions are able to understand what is happening and why, while retaining the flexibility required by the people.
Multilateral and nongovernmental organizations
Many aid and development organizations become involved in sanitation programmes with the aim of improving the health of the people. Some may be based within the country, while others are externally supported. Some are able to draw on considerable experience over many years in different parts of the world, with funds and skilled personnel from different countries. Others have limited experience and/or funds but demonstrate a strong desire to assist the people. Their enthusiasm and ability to respond quickly to new ideas may be usefully harnessed for the good of the project.
The sponsoring institution has to decide how best to use all offers of help. The crucial task is to integrate the multilateral and nongovernmental organizations and the sectoral institutions, where appropriate, into the long-term programme, with the objective of limiting any tendency the smaller organizations may have to promote one-off projects that are not sustainable.
To be effective, government institutions must have contacts with householders and the wider community that go beyond simply instructing the people what they must do. This is discussed more fully in Chapter 11. The lead agency should be constituted so that it can manage:
- community surveys, interviews, meetings, household visits;
- demonstration centres, sanitation "supermarkets", component purchase and/or production and sales;
- general or task-specific support staff, for example technical, social, financial and health staff;
- training of community members as facilitators;
- financial assistance; material assistance; technical assistance in construction;
- identification of contractors and skilled builders;
- standard specifications and target prices;
- ongoing support, in terms of technical assistance, and health education; and
- evaluation and monitoring.