Towards a Service Delivery Approach to Rural Water Supply and Sanitation

Published by: 
Independent Development Evaluation, African Development Bank
Publication Date: 
February, 2021

Document Type:

Independent Development Evaluation at the African Development Bank has conducted an evaluation of 16 Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS) projects that were approved and implemented by the Bank in 13 Regional Member Countries over the period 2000-2017. With a total net approval of UA 365 million, these projects were designed to enhance rural health standards, promote education, improve living standards and promote income-generating activities. This was pursuant to the Bank’s objective to enable project countries to reach their Millennium Development Goals commitments in terms of universal access to potable water supply as well as significant progress in sanitation and good hygiene practices by 2015. The 16 projects were purposively selected for the evaluation.

The aim of the cluster evaluation was to inform the design and implementation of future RWSS projects under the Bank’s High 5s priority related to improving the quality of life for the people of Africa. Its main objectives were:

  1. To assess the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of RWSS projects; and
  2. To draw lessons from what worked and what did not work.

The evaluation was informed by both quantitative and qualitative data drawn from desk reviews of Bank documents and literature related to rural water supply and sanitation; interviews with key internal and external stakeholders; and field visits to the projects under review. There was also additional data from a mini-survey of around 500 households that was conducted for each project-level evaluation. Results were assessed at the individual project and project cluster level using an RWSS project logic model. Data was analyzed using descriptive statistics and comparative analysis was conducted at the indicator level using baselines, targets and actual results. Evidence was triangulated from some of the data sources and methods especially those emanating from field visits and interviews to address the shortcomings related to insufficient coverage of beneficiaries and project sites.

The evaluation paid particular attention to key issues related to quality of project design; viability of the community-based management model; level of capacity development within a decentralized system; strategies to foster RWSS service delivery; and mechanisms to sustain benefits from RWSS projects.

Six key lessons emerged from this evaluation including:

  1. The importance of paying sufficient attention to project design studies, procurement-related issues and capacity strengthening to minimize implementation challenges;
  2. Community-based management under a demand-driven approach is more impactful if applied throughout the project cycle;
  3. To maximize water results and solve chronic sanitation issues, service delivery at all levels of implementation, in both the private and public sectors, needs to be capacitated;
  4. The need for clear strategies to enable good service delivery, quality sanitation infrastructure and sufficient behavioral change;
  5. To sustain RWSS project benefits, it is critical to adopt a wider range of contextually-appropriate service delivery models that go beyond community-based management;
  6. The criticality of a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation system focused on rural service delivery and sustainability.