Thursday, 12 June 2008

Why WatSan projects fail

I’m in Cali, Colombia, for a few days before going to Bogotá next week to lecture. So I’m working with colleagues at the Instituto Cinara, Universidad del Valle, and this reminded me of a finding by Dr Ines Restrepo when she was doing her Leeds PhD (her thesis is here). She found that the two main reasons why WatSan projects fail were that (1) local government engineers simply don’t have sufficient technical knowledge about available WatSan options for the poor; and (2) that, because they’re not well paid, they commonly have a second job and as a result they don’t pay as much attention as they should to their local government job − the consequence of this is that they often don’t spend their budget allocation till late in the financial year, so they spend it badly. All sound familiar?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: how are we going to get the knowledge needed to those who need it? If we don’t, then there’s very little chance that the MDG sanitation target will be met. It’s time knowledge transfer was taken much more seriously – the theme of the April 2008 issue of Waterlines (also here) is ‘Knowledge Sharing’, so this is a good start, but much more needs to be done. When will the agencies with all the money finally wake up to this? (A cynic might reply ‘on 1 January 2016’.)