Impact of Community Participation on Sustainability of Water and Sanitation Projects in Rural Areas. Case Study of Musanze District, Northern Province of Rwanda.
Mugwaneza, Bénigne Ishimwe
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Water-related diseases are closely linked to poverty and disproportionately affect vulnerable communities of developing countries including Rwanda. Most development projects highlight community participation as one of the prerequisites for the improved performance of water and sanitation. In that regard, this research was conducted to evaluate the impact of community participation on sustainability of water and sanitation projects with a focus on rural areas where the services are usually significantly low compared to similar services provided to cities. Three rural villages in Musanze District (Gataraga, Gitega, Rwinuma) were taken as the case study. The methodology applied to assess community participation was thoroughly discussed to see the extent of community involvement at different stages of the projects. Data was collected using questionnaires and analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). A total of 192 participants responded to the questionnaires of whom 189 were water and sanitation projects beneficiaries. In addition, Water and Sanitation District and sectors officials were also interviewed. From the results, it was noted that there were measures in place at the District level to ensure project sustainability from the initial stages. The measures include community mobilization during project initial planning to ensure that the people understand and accept the project while committing to safeguard it, and the structure put in place for project operations and maintenance activities from the District level down to the village level with user committees. However, from the findings of this study, it was observed that despite the measures put in place, communities still do not have the capacity to maintain the water and sanitation systems. At the same time they don’t have a sense of ownership. In addition, it was concluded that sufficient attention was not given to the community involvement in different stages of projects implementation including design, construction as well as operations and maintenance. Hence community participation management approach was not effectively used in the case study of all the projects and this threatened sustainability of the water and sanitation schemes. The study recommends to the GOR/Districts to incorporate the user centered design methodology in projects initial stages in order to involve community in early stages and produce interventions that fully solve community problems and to prioritize proper training and technical support at all levels and for all groups engaging in water and sanitation projects study and implementation in order to ensure project sustainability.