UK partners building skills in South African water sector

Partners for Water and Sanitation (PAWS) was established at the World Summit for Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002. PAWS mobilises support from the private sector, the government and non-governmental organisations in the UK to help developing countries meet their Millennium goals for water and sanitation. The program is strictly demand-driven and currently operational in South Africa (SA), Ethiopia and Nigeria. Over 40 PAWS UK partner organisations offer technical, management and legal expertise by releasing relevant staff to contribute their skills within specific terms of reference. UK organisations and companies cover their staff costs, and PAWS manages the projects and funds travel and related expenses.

Previously, PAWS engaged directly with municipalities, and was advised by a PAWS- SA Steering Committee. In general, a municipality was selected for support if it lacked skills, or if it was willing to accept PAWS support. Since this support was different from traditional forms of funding, in-country organisations were not always able to take advantage of the opportunities to receive support. They were consequently dependent on UK partners to assist with scoping their needs for support. Many projects also relied on individuals as champions, and support efforts were not sustained when these individuals left their organisations. One of the first tasks that Amina Ismail faced when she joined the PAWS as Acting Country Manager in October 2007 was to review this strategy.

In early 2008 a review of the PAWS approach showed that their capacity-building efforts were more sustainable where:

• Support was provided at strategic times and specific points to help established and funded in-country projects and programs
• In-country partners were able to identify where and when support could benefit their programs and projects
• Municipalities and government departments had the staff to absorb the support, and build on the skills transferred by developing their projects independently at the end of the support period

A major opportunity for PAWS support was the launch in 2008 of the Water Services Provider Support program within the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF). The DWAF support program is working in four test municipalities to define the support requirements and provide targeted capacity-building. It also provides a learning mechanism to disseminate lessons to other municipalities.

In addition to responding to direct requests from water sector organisations, the revised PAWS strategy now aligns itself with the national support program. As a result, PAWS benefits from the identifiable opportunities and mechanisms provided by DWAF to support municipalities and replicate lessons within local government. In 2009, PAWS provided expertise to Ugu District Municipality within the DWAF national support program, and on the advice of the Kwa-Zulu Natal provincial DWAF office it continued support to the Zululand District Municipality.

In February 2009, senior UK regulators met with DWAF top management, and currently wastewater treatment specialists are working with the Gauteng Department of Local Government and regional DWAF officials on the provincial wastewater treatment assessment program. In addition, PAWS has been talking to water and sanitation NGOs funded by Irish Aid to identify their needs for capacity building.

Amina Ismail:

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