Monday, February 25, 2013

Ghana: Tamale hosts first regional water, sanitation learning forum

Participants of the first Regional Learning Platform
Story and Pictures by Resource Center Network

Stakeholders in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector in the Northern Region have met to establish a quarterly multi-stakeholder learning and sharing platform, the Regional Level Learning Alliance Platform (RLLAP), in Tamale.

This is to promote vibrant regional WASH sector dialogue through reflective sharing of ideas, experiences and best practices, and to synchronize project activities and initiatives for efficient service delivery.

A sector that requires change at the regional level needs to bring together people with a stake in the outcome of an activity and engage them in joint learning, planning and action.  It is against this background that the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) and other sector organizations in the region, considered the idea of the regional level learning alliance platform to help improve and promote sector learning and experience sharing. Partner organizations for the inaugural edition included Triple-S Ghana Project, WASH Alliance and SNV.

Alhaji Ahmed Ewura, Regional Engineer for the CWSA - Northern Region, who spoke on behalf of his Regional Director, stated that partners {in the sector} over the years have worked in the fields and gathered a lot of information that might be ‘rotting’ on shelves. This information is not shared with other partners to help them improve on their activities.

 “At this point it has become necessary to come together in this region to try and see how we can work together as a unit to create a platform to share with each other on our experiences and activities, with the sole objective of improving the services that we deliver to our communities.”

Alhaji Ahmed said the CWSA will work with its stakeholders in the region to provide improved and sustainable WASH services to people in the region. He said over the years, much emphasis has been on the delivery of facilities to the detriment of sustainable services to the people. But now, with the paradigm shift to service provision he hopes the platform will also be used to raise awareness to stakeholders on the need to think of service delivery and not facility delivery.

Alhaji Ahmed charged the meeting to constitute a core group that will organize activities of the platform to make it a success and funding mechanisms to support the activities of the platform to make it sustainable.
He said "If we are able to organize the platform successfully at the regional level, then we could upscale to the district level for the benefit of the stakeholders there."

Mr Eric Chimsi, Country Coordinator of WASH Alliance-Ghana, speaking on behalf of his organization, said the Dutch WASH Alliance (which the WASH Alliance Ghana is part) is committed to promoting learning in the sector. He said the sector needs to do things differently to get different results and “To bring change in the sector requires stakeholders leveraging on each other to cross fertilize ideas and create synergies.

Mr Chimsi said the uncoordinated manner in which sector organisations undertook their individual initiatives resulted in a duplication of functions and called on them to move away from piloting of projects implementation of existing initiatives for effective service delivery.

Rita Ambadire, WASH Adviser for SNV, a Dutch Development organization, on behalf of her outfit stated that the establishment of the platform in the Northern Region was long overdue. This was because the region has benefited from a number of WASH related projects with a lot of knowledge generated “But these are sitting with individuals and organizations, not being brought together, synchronized and shared among stakeholders.”

This needs to change so that experiences could be shared to help organizations perform better to meet the WASH needs and expectations of the people they serve.

She said knowledge sharing forms part of the critical pillars of SNV’s activities and so is committed to the establishment and sustainability of the learning alliance platform in the Northern region.

Mr. Jerry Atengdem, Triple-S Regional Learning Facilitator for Northern Region, stated that the CWSA in collaboration with Triple S project in 2011 undertook an environmental scan in the region. The scan identified the unavailability or weak systems and structures for sharing experiences and best practices within the WASH sector as a factor for poor information sharing. It also found that much of the information on the sector had not been captured nor shared, and the little available was held at individual and organizational levels making accessibility to the public difficult.

He said his organization is committed to sustainability of facilities and hopes the platform will offer opportunity to share with stakeholders on the need for a paradigm shift that will move from the over-emphasis on the provision of infrastructure to the delivery of sustainable services.

Mr. Abubakari Wumbei of the Resource Centre Network (RCN) Ghana took the stakeholders through the concept and practice of knowledge management, and the learning alliance approach. At the end of the session the participants pledged their commitment and support to the formation and sustainability of the platform.

The meeting agreed on some key modalities to facilitate the sustainable operation of the platform. An 11-member task force (core group) was constituted and CWSA tasked to lead and host the secretariat, which will be responsible for the organization and management of the quarterly learning platform. The core group consisted of SNV, Triple-S Project, WASH Alliance Ghana, Water Aid, World Vision, UNICEF, Tamale Polytechnic, GES/SHEP, EHSU, GWJN and CWSA. Ms. Veronica Ayi Bonte of IRC Ghana facilitated the session.

It is expected that the process will eventually help bridge the gap between people on the ground, organizations at districts/community level with responsibility for service provision and support on one hand and the national policy makers on the other. So that decisions and conclusions at these levels will feed into the general policy making at the national level.

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