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Pacific Community Water Management Plus (PaCWaM+)

This International WaterCentre led research project explored how CSOs and governments can better enable rural community water management in the Pacific to improve SDG6 outcomes, using community water management plus practices.

Phase I Research focus: Progressing inclusive, resilient and sustainable SDG6 and WASH outcomes in the rural Pacific: approaches to enable effective community-based water management

Phase II Research focus: Supporting decentralised rural water supply in Pacific islands: Formal and informal networks to support Pacific rural Water Committee engagement with water resources management for climate resilient WASH outcomes (PacWaM+ 2)

Funded by: 

Status

Phase I Completed December 2022

Phase II Commenced January 2023

Project Location

Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji

Research Partners

Griffith University, Plan International Australia, Live and Learn Solomon Islands, Habitat for Humanity Australia, University of South Pacific and Solomon Islands National University

Research Findings

PaCWaM+ Resources to support Community Water Management

Solomon Islands Resources

Solomon Islands

Strong Water Committees – Strong WASH Communities – implementation guide for Solomon Islands

Video: Strong Water Committees – Strong WASH Communities (English subtitles)

Water is everyone’s business – Solomon Islands – implementation guide

Poster: Water is Everyone’s Business (English)

Video: Women and Community Water Management (English subtitles)

Video: Youth and Community Water Management (English, subtitles)

Video: Meri na wota (Women and water) – Tik Tok version of the Women and Community Water Management

Community-based Water Security Improvement Planning – Implementation Guides: Vol1Vol2Vol3

CWSIP2 – Community-based Water Security Planning (CWSIP) Planning II: for climate change & future risks

*note: the video resources for Solomon islands here are with English subtitles, spoken in local pijin. If you would like to use these videos without English subtitles, or want a downloadable copy lease contact iwc@griffith.edu.au)

Phase 1 Research

Key research questions

This research looked at how can CSOs and governments better enable rural community water management in the Pacific to improve SDG6 outcomes, using community water management plus practices?

Specifically, the project looked at:

(a) What can be learned from evaluating community water management across diverse community contexts, especially about which community governance, engagement, and support features are most aligned with inclusive, integrated and resilient SDG6, including WASH, outcome? then,

(b) What approaches and tools, that are sensitive and responsive to local context and improve inclusion, enable community management plus? That is what approaches and tools can CSOs/governments use, to strengthen the community engagement, support and governance features that are aligned with successful community water management in the Pacific?

Research description

Poor management of water sources and services is associated with inadequate WASH outcomes, negatively impacting on human health and well-being, and often affects women and girls disproportionately. Across the Pacific, community water management remains the necessary model for rural water services, due to the limited presence of government and private sector.

However, global and Pacific evidence indicates that current approaches to enabling community water management don’t lead to inclusive, integrated and resilient WASH outcomes, and that external support is necessary. Community Water Management Plus (Baumann, 2005), recognises that managing rural community water systems is a shared responsibility between communities, local authorities and central government.

Although Pacific governments appreciate that support is required, and invest in providing support for community water management, there is a lack of evidence about what support is effective, including in different community contexts.

In partnership with CSOs, government and communities in both Fiji and the Solomon Islands, through this research, the project team answered how CSOs and governments can better enable rural community water management in the Pacific to improve SDG6 outcomes, including the resilience, inclusiveness and sustainability of WASH outcomes.

This was answered by:

  1. first evaluating a variety of existing models of community water management, and
  2. secondly co-developing and piloting a toolkit of context-sensitive community engagement approaches to enable effective community water management.

The approach involved male and female local university and village ‘researchers’, strengthening local research capacity as well as promoting gender equity in academia and local WASH outcomes, and participation of women in local water governance.

Key outputs are showcased above and include a toolkit and guide to enable Community Water Management Plus. This toolkit is comprised of

  1. community-engagement and other approaches that enabling actors, including CSOs and government can use to support context-specific management of community water systems
  2. guidance that governments can include in their plans and guidelines relating to community water management, to increase the uptake of community water management plus approaches.

Expected benefits of the research

“Currently, governments and NGOs know communities need support to manage their own water supply systems but don’t have any evidence of what works and why.  The practical tools of this research, co-developed with academics and practitioners, will allow us improve practice by NGOs and government, and increase the likelihood of sustainable and reliable water services in communities.”

Tom Rankin, WASH Program Manager, Plan International Australia

Phase II

Project summary

This project builds on the findings and relationship established during the highly productive Pacific Community Water Management plus (PaCWaM+) program, delving further into some of the key identified knowledge gaps (e.g. decentralisation trends in the WASH sector) and key findings (e.g., leveraging non-WASH networks, localising water safety planning approaches, the benefits of social marketing – not simply educational models – when supporting community water managers) and exploring new focal areas (e.g., a greater emphasis on climate-resilient WASH, the potential role of water committees and other actors to engage in local-level water resource management, and community-led water monitoring).

The team include scholars from The University of the South Pacific (Fiji and Vanuatu) and the Solomon Islands National University, and we are again partnering with numerous government agencies.

Purpose and rationale

In rural Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands, active and sustainable water committees (WCs) are the key to effective community-based water management (CWM) and thus, to climate-resilient rural water security. These countries are, to varying degrees, all currently decentralising water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) service and support systems; now is the time to assess and improve these processes. WCs must be day-to-day managers of water resources and WASH systems – adapting to chronic climate changes and preparing for acute climate hazards. However, WCs typically do not endure or function in a sustainable and proactive manner, and there are few examples of WCs engaging in wider water resource management (WRM). WCs need further capacity development with ongoing mentoring, support and motivation. Innovatively leveraging formal, informal and emerging networks – both WASH and non-WASH related – is necessary to provide this support. By non-WASH networks we specifically mean institutions such as rural-urban familial networks (formal and informal), faith based organisations (e.g. church leaders, women’s, men’s and youth groups), market associations and other agricultural networks (e.g. agricultural extension officers), chiefly councils, schools, and more. Our previous research has identified some of these non-WASH networks as important, but largely ignored, components of the wider WASH enabling environment.

Building on our earlier work and ongoing partnerships in these three countries, using both formative and action research combined with two regional knowledge sharing opportunities (two peer-to-peer learning exchange events), this research project seeks to better understand ways that government and civil society organisations (CSOs) engaged in the WASH sector can leverage formal, as well as emergent and informal networks, to further support and strengthen WCs as well as link WRM with community WCs to result in more effective, sustainable and inclusive climate-resilient WASH.

Research Questions

The overarching research question is:

In the context of increasingly decentralizing rural water management in Pacific Island countries, how can formal, informal & emergent networks – both WASH and non-WASH related – better support mobilising and strengthening water committees (WC) to be both WASH and water resource managers who engage with both community and beyond-community factors affecting climate resilience?

There are two groups of guiding sub-questions/research objectives used to address this research question, with RQ1 focused at the village/community level and RQ2 focused at the community and beyond-community level.

RQ1. How can formal, informal and emergent networks (WASH and non-WASH related) be used to improve both the prioritisation of CWM and WC-capabilities for climate-resilient water management:

  1. What monitoring, reporting and capacity-building activities can decentralized government structures feasibly use to mobilise, and hold WCs to-account, to deliver climate-resilient WASH?
  2. How can informal and emergent social networks, such as church-based, town-village-based, and other non-WASH networks (such as agriculture, market associations, tourism, sporting programs, education institutions) be used to further promote and support CWM?

RQ2. How can WCs be assisted by formal/informal/emergent networks to engage in water resources issues both within their community and with others in their catchment?

  1. How can existing and emergent networks – both WASH and non-WASH – assist WCs to address water resource issues with others in a given catchment?
  2. Can community-led monitoring of water be a feasible and effective way to motivate WCs and community collective action, to inform climate-resilient water management and support WCs to engage in WRM discussions in their catchments?

Research Approach

Research methodology consists of formative and action research activities, with some variation across the three countries – Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji – based on contextual factors, geo-specific gaps and opportunities identified in our previous work as well as consultations with relevant stakeholders (e.g. government and CSO actors in all three countries). Research activities are aligned with the afore mentioned sub-questions (RQ1a-b and RQ2 a-b).

A key component of the project is conducting formative research on decentralisation and CWM in each country (RQ1a) to better understand provincial level capacities and constraints to supporting WCs.

Following these formative research activities the results will be analysed and then socialised with key stakeholders to then co-design several pilot action research activities (i.e. the implementation of new check-lists and community engagement approaches, the piloting of alternative follow-up regimes) which will then be monitored and assessed. This design is based on a research-to-policy collaborative (R2PC) approach, which we have used in our previous projects.

Other research activities (consisting of either/or/both formative and action research) vary by country and are as follows:

  1. Production of videos (everywhere except Solomon Islands, where this has already occurred) which will then be used alongside WC training and water safety planning interventions by government and CSOs (Van & FJ – at the request of water sector stakeholders). Some of this content will then be used as part of a social marketing campaign (e.g. Facebook). [RQ1b]
  2. Pilot implementation and monitoring of a slightly altered Drinking Water Safety & Security Planning (DWSSP) intervention in five communities (by MHMMS), drawing on a DWSSP supplementary guide produced in the earlier PaCWaM+ project (based on formative research and consultations with MHMMS staff, but not implemented due to COVID-19) (FJ only)[RQ2a&b]
  3. Formative research on climate change impacts (primary FJ), followed by the production of guidance that may be incorporated into the government’s current DWSSP activities [RQ1a&b]
  4. Literature review and some formative research exploring the potential of community-level water monitoring by WCs in the Pacific context (all countries). This may include some pilot activities and action research (depending on review and consultations) in Fiji [RQ2a]
  5. Formative research on the potential of incorporating church and customary governance networks to support the prioritisation of CWM and WRM (SI, Van, FJ) [if funds allow, this may include an action research activity with select churches in Solomon Islands, following consultations conducted in September last year] [RQ1a&b]
  6. Formative research on the potential to connect CWM with agricultural and other non-WASH networks (e.g. market associations, eco-tourism association, schools) in terms of utilising these networks to support WCs [Van, FJ]. This may include some low cost action research activities (dependent on results and funds) [RQ2a]
  7. Formative research on the barriers and opportunities for WCs to be engaged in beyond-community WRM (FJ, Van) [RQ1b & RQ2b].

Desired Outcomes

Our research activities involve, and outputs are intended for, a range of audiences. However, the primary audience are National and Provincial Governments, who can incorporate findings and adopt resources into existing policies and guidelines. Many of the proposed activities and research focal areas have been identified through dialogue with implementing partners in each country. If adopted formally, CSOs and others engaging with communities and government on CWM will be encourage or required to use these outputs. The adoption of these CWM resources will add to existing resources to provide a more holistic and effective approach to CWM.

Communication resources will be publicly available and their use encouraged by other actors, such as Churches and social media groups.

Government staff and community members (WCs) will be directly involved in research activities. We anticipate they will benefit through both participating in research activities where they are exposed to the integration of evidence and knowledge of different forms to formulate actions and guidance, as well as learning about tools and skills that mobilise action and build capacity. It is hoped that, with time, all communities will benefit from more active, inclusive, capable and sustainable Water Committees.

The two regional peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and learning events provide an innovative and welcome opportunity for Pacific Islander scholars and Provincial-level government WASH sector workers from across the region to share their experiences, knowledge, and learnings with one another, contributing to furthering regional momentum and interest in the merits of applied research on water, sanitation and hygiene.

Read our PACWAM+ Project Blog Posts

“Wai Tamata” (Water for Peace): World Water Day in Vanuatu

Pacific Islands Regional Knowledge and Learning Exchange: Suva, Fiji, 6 – 10 November 2023

Tok Stori Engagement in Rural Solomon Islands (Western Province)

Did you know? IWC research prioritises producing practical and usable tools

Pacific Community Water Management plus (PACWAM+) – August Fiji Stakeholder Workshops

IWC research partnership enters “action” phase in Solomon Islands

Community members receive research findings reports