Bringing communities and government together to improve rural water supply

Bringing communities and government together to improve rural water supply

Giving rural Cambodians access to safe water means honest communication about the issues among communities and government. SNV is therefore working with the Kampot Provincial Department of Rural Development (PDRD) and experts from SILAKA, a local NGO, to develop and implement a social accountability programme for Rural Water Supply (RWS) in three pilot communes.

The first step of a series of community activities was a district water supply forum at Chum Kiri District Hall.  About 300 participants attended from each of the three programme communes. The forum objective was to discuss rural water supply issues from the perspectives of the state and the public, while exposing both sides to the concept of social accountability and related activities to come. Social accountability is a component of good governance and ensures that government decisions and actions are conducted transparently and responsibly, while taking into consideration the voice of the public.

The half-day forum included speeches and reports from the PDRD, district government, commune councils, SNV and SILAKA on rural water supply plans in the district.  It also involved a role-play on water supply issues and governance; and a question and answer session from male and female citizens representing all three communes. Exit interviews suggested that citizens see great importance in efforts to improve rural water supply services; however, social accountability remains a new concept for all and it will take time to cultivate understanding and engagement on such issues.

The forum was successful in starting a change in mindsets. Some villagers or user groups have not been repairing their own wells, even in the case of small breakdowns that would cost under a dollar to fix, and often waiting long periods for local authorities to do it. “Citizens must be responsible for resolving small repairs themselves now,” said one participant from Chumpouvoan commune. All of the participants surveyed noted that such events are important towards addressing RWS concerns. Ms. Sros from Chumpouvoan village, for example, said she would take the information from the forum to share with other villagers who didn’t yet know the benefit of using safe water.

The next steps are to help government and citizen representatives to administer citizen score cards that will assess rural water supply service level issues and the government’s performance (from both citizen’s and government perspectives); to develop a complaints handling system on water supply issues; and to strengthen or re-initiate water user groups. SNV’s Functionality of Rural Water Supply Services (FRWS) programme intends to improve the health and quality of life for rural people through sustained use of sufficient drinking water from reliable safe sources, beginning in Chum Kiri district, Kampot province.

The event was attended by the Deputy Director of the Kampot PDRD; the Chief Technical Officer of the Ministry of Rural Development; the Chief of the Chum Kiri District Council; the Deputy District Governor of Chum Kiri; the SILAKA Director; and SNV and SILAKA programme staff.