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“Prioritizing & Refocusing Sustainable WASH Services Delivery : Lessons From The Covid19 Pandemic”.


“Prioritizing & Refocusing Sustainable WASH Services Delivery:

Lessons From The Covid19 Pandemic”.

By Casely Ato Coleman, Senior Fellow IMANI Africa & Visiting Professor of HR & Change Management, Institute Superieur De Management, Senegal.

Key Theme Address Delivered at 31st Mole Conference, Tuesday 3rd November 2020

Prefatory Comments

1. Covid 19 has revealed the importance of WASH to us as a country and the need for the government as a duty bearer and all stakeholders including the citizens as right holders, to prioritise WASH services delivery. In Ghana only 48% of the population has access to a basic handwashing facility.(Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey Report(2018/19). Open defecation is practiced by more than 1/5th of the population of Ghana. Ghana generates appx 5million tons of solid waste.

2. Water is life and knowledge is power. For me the best way to demonstrate prioritization for sustainable WASH services is to strengthen knowledge management of WASH in Ghana.

3. In development, knowledge management – learning from best project models, capturing them, documenting them and packaging them to inform quality policy making, quality programming, investment and sustainable behaviour change.

4. The Mole Conference is a platform for academics, policy makers, practitioners in water sanitation & hygiene(WASH) to reflect and learn from progress made to attain the right to WASH for citizens. It is a platform that brings together theory & practice.

5. On the basis of the above, as someone who has managed WASH programmes with an HR/Change Mgt background, my intention is to trigger deep reflections from the leadership team of Mole Conference & Members of the Coalition of NGOs in Water & Sanitation & Hygiene(CONIWAS) to move from their comfort zone of talk and communique to build capabilities in KM to facilitate data driven policy, investment, quality programming and behaviour change.

PART ONE – Introduction – Setting The Context

We now know there is a demand for End to End Solutions for cities and developing areas that are facing increasing population, growing urbanization and industrialization, and surging consumer spending.
Public Development Agencies are facing budget constraints, inadequate waste management infrastructure and weak oversight of waste collection and disposal regulations.
Cities and Regions are struggling to fulfil national and international obligations on well-being (SDG 6), green innovation (SDG7,13) and waste as a resource (SDG9.
Resilience Initiatives -Ghana Climate Action Plan – the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) has out doored the city’s first Climate Action Plan (CAP), a blueprint to mitigate the impact of climate change on its people. The Five-Year Plan prioritizes actions on solid waste and wastewater and mainstream climate threat in development processes. The government must be commended for this significant plan and the next step is for the Mole Conference to engage Government, hold its feet to the fire and demand accountability in the execution of the plan.
It within this broader context that the overall objective of the conference – to review progress towards universal access to sustainable WASH services in the country by creating the platform for identifying and removing barriers, influencing policies and refocusing the approach to improved access – is not only relevant but timely.
It is my view that this community of practice platform, provides an opportunity for the Mole Conference and CONIWAS to reflect and strengthen Ghana’s organizational capabilities to scale up knowledge management in the area of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).
What is knowledge management? According to Davenport (1994) “Knowledge Management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge”. It’s a systematic way of generating evidence and manage the environment in which knowledge can be created, discovered, captured, shared, distilled, validated, transferred, adopted, adapted and applied.


First premise – WASH is the foundation for delivering all poverty reduction programming. From an SDG perspective, even though WASH is SDG 6, indeed SDG 6 is the driver for realizing all the other SDGs 1&2 talks –no poverty, no hunger,SDG3 –good health wellbeing, SDG4 quality education, SDG 5 –gender equality,SDG11 sustainable cities & communities, SDG 12 responsible consumption and production, SDG 13-climate action, SDG14 &15 –life below water & life on land,SDG16 –peace, justice and strong institutions. Measuring progress towards the attainment of these SDGs, require strong data and capacity to capture, document and package promising best WASH practices and project models. As a country, we need to invest in data and knowledge management in the area of WASH to facilitate quality policy dialogue and quality programming.

Second premise – from a disaster risks preparedness and management perspective – the 2 recent major disasters that have confronted our sub region (Ebola) and globally (Covid19) have confirmed that good WASH practices can help to mitigate the impact of diseases that threaten our well being & existence to build resilience. As a country we need to strengthen our data and documentation capabilities so we can learn and better cope with adversities that may occur. For example, we need to be able to learn and implement some of the very successful project models in drainage management practices that other countries with better sanitation and drainage systems have used. Have we learnt, and documented with data, and socialized appropriately, the effects of building on waterways and bridge-areas and blocking the natural flow of water? Have we learnt, documented with data and socialized appropriately the effect of enforcing or not enforcing bye laws on WASH. Have we documented with data and socialized appropriately the lack of clarity of roles with respect to governance in WASH amongst state actors at local, regional and national level?

Third premise – the timeliness of critical data to drive quality WASH programing, policy, research needs to be strengthened. For example the data that provides the context for the Mole conference is based on Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey Report (2017/2018). This is not the best; as a country we need to improve in this area which is critical for data driven decision making & data driven critiques.

Fourth Premise – Political Governance & Democratic consolidation & WASH – IMANI did a summary comparative analysis of the WASH manifestos of the 2 major political parties in Ghana ie NPP and NDC. NPP had 8 promises, 4 are non measurable, 4 are semi measurable. NDC had 15 promises, 6 are non measurable, 8 are semi-measurable and 1 is measurable. We will need solid data to validate and critique these commitments so we can assess progress during execution and measurement. I will like to request the organizers to consider deep dive sessions of these 2 WASH manifestos during this conference so that we can engage them now, and hold them accountable when they assume political power.

Fifth Premise – Investment Opportunities in WASH – we need to scale up engagement with the Financial Sector to mobilize capital to drive investment in WASH policy, research, programming & services delivery. We need to de-risk investments for the Private Sector in WASH and this must be based on sold data that leverages knowledge management in the WASH sector. We have learned through Covid19, that public private partnership(PPP) in health is feasible. The PPP initiative by the Private Sector Covid19 Fund and the Ghana Military to construct a state of the art infectious disease center, is a classical project model that can be replicated in WASH to drive resource mobilization and de-risk financing of WASH interventions in Ghana. Solid knowledge management will help to address corruption in the sector since best practice/impactful project models will be well costed to inform the financing of WASH projects.

Sixth premise – Education, Social Mobilization & Community Engagement – need to integrate WASH education across all levels of our educational system to help build a new cadre of WASH change agents right from primary to tertiary level who will drive behavior change in WASH. One lesson from Covid19 which I published in a Global publication on Covid19, concluded that the Government’s covid19 response was weak with respect to community and engagement and social mobilization at the very onset of the outbreak. Ebola was defeated partly because of the behavior change led by community, traditional and faith based leaders which facilitated behavior change in WASH during the epidemic. We need to utilize knowledge management to drive behavior change.

As a country we need to strengthen WASH knowledge management as the vehicle to help prioritize and refocus on delivering sustainable WASH service. I see CONIWAS & the Mole Conference as change leader to drive this agenda. I will like to make some suggestions in that regard. I have not seen adequate evidence that the Mole Conference has in the past, identified/ Mapped current internal knowledge resources, and nascent knowledge management practices in the WASH eco system. I urge the Mole Conference to make a conscious effort to strengthen its capability through a rapid assessment, to establish and maintain a dynamic KM system for the WASH Mole Conference Platform.
I will also suggest that the Mole Conference prioritize and develop a robust knowledge management strategy/standards to guide WASH programming, research, policy and practice in Ghana. It should be obvious to us all that that knowledge management in the WASH sector is very weak.
To strengthen its thought leadership in WASH, I will urge the Mole Conference to focus on designing, testing and rolling out amongst Mole Conference members, relevant knowledge management tools needed for collecting, organizing, storing and sharing all WASH-related programing information.
The Mole conference has in the past documented and shared best practices and processes related to the past and ongoing WASH projects implemented in the public and private sector. This must be strengthened to ensure knowledge sharing amongst members  to drive data driven advocacy and resource mobilization purposes.
The Mole conference must transition from a rallying platform for discussing issues on WASH to become a platform to provide thought leadership and more concrete solutions in driving knowledge management on WASH to support the design, execution and measurement of quality WASH policy, research and practice. This will require building organizational capabilities in the area of data integrity on WASH.
I urge multi-layered engagement to socialize the recommendations/communique after the Mole Conference, with duty bearers and right holders across all 3 levels national, regional and district to ensure consistency and synergy in approaches and measurement of progress made to deliver commitments promised.
I also urge CONIWAS to engage donors/private sector to establish a database that will collate all information on WASH in Ghana
I also encourage CONIWAS to consider and establish a WASH journal that will provide space to publish impactful cross cutting research related to WASH policy, research and practice.


Knowledge management in WASH, needs to be improved to ensure sustainable social justice in WASH in Ghana. It is my hope that the leadership of the Mole Conference will prioritize and invest in building its organizational capabilities in research, data management, and knowledge management to strengthen its thought leadership to drive social justice in the area of WASH in Ghana. Water is life and knowledge is power – strengthening knowledge management in WASH will help us as a country to reprioritize and refocus on delivering sustainable WASH services which is critical for economic governance, equality and human rights and political governance and democratic consolidation.


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