OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Build it and they might not ‘demand’ to keep it: a new community demand led approach for sustainability in WASH in rural poor Tajikistan

This pilot project aims to enhance the sustainability of WASH support through new business model approaches for the rural poor in Tajikistan

Photo of Barrie Hebb
0 2

Written by

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Tajikistan is one of the world’s most water rich countries, yet, more than half of the country’s 8.7 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and sanitation. This problem is most severe in rural areas where over 75% of the people live and suffer from chronic poverty and rely on land in drought risk areas for their livelihoods and food security. Due to this lack of access, the rural poor, especially women and girls, spend a lot of time collecting water and firewood for drinking, cooking, cleaning and limited irrigation in addition to regular work on small holder farms. This robs them of devoting more time to improve their livelihoods in addition to having negative impact on their health and well-being. The poorest regions also suffer from high rates of childhood stunting, water borne diseases and illnesses and the World Bank has estimated that poor water and sanitation costs this poor country almost 4% of GDP per year. Local poor communities lack resources to construct and maintain WASH infrastructure to improve this situation. Further, previous assistance has typically focused on the supply side; providing limited infrastructure. This has not been sustainable since local communities lacked the income and capacity to sufficiently demand safe, clean, stable WASH services resulting in lack of maintenance of the systems and a return to the WASH insecurity. Oxfam studies in the region have shown greater potential for introducing new business models in WASH that can improve this situation by complimenting infrastructure with local community demand for these services. Oxfam would build on existing approaches tested by targeting a poor rural communities in the Kulob, Muminabad and Rudaki districts and facilitate local community based organizations and authorities in the construction of local WASH markets that generate sufficient demand by local stakeholders for using the infrastructure supplied, improving sustainability, community resilience and outcomes.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Poor rural households will benefit in a more sustainable way from improved WASH access through this approach, especially younger women and girls. Households spend exorbitant amounts of time and effort carrying out tasks related to simply securing safe water, such as collecting it from far away wells, firewood for boiling it, along with cooking, cleaning, and caring for those who suffer water borne illnesses. Our field research on unpaid care work shows that the vast bulk of these tasks are carried out by women and girls in addition to regular work typically in agriculture. Securing sustainable safe access to water and sanitation will play a critical role in reducing unpaid household work, improving the health status, but also freeing the poor to pursue their lives. Supporting the demand side of WASH management will also be critical for local communities to take ownership, responsibility for managing and maintaining this valuable resource and further developing community based services.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Most rural poor households in Tajikistan lack easy access to safe, stable, water and sanitation services. Further, endemic poverty and extremely high construction costs in the country prevent these communities from simply financing the infrastructure directly or through taxation let alone maintaining WASH services. Real demand is weak. While well intentioned development assistance can provide sufficient funding for constructing WASH infrastructure, it often fails to achieve sustainability, falling into disrepair due to a lack of demand in the affected community to retain the investment. Our WASH approach compliments the infrastructure assistance with community based approaches to monitor, maintain and demand access despite extremely low incomes. In short, building local markets in rural poor communities for utilities. Introducing affordable, manageable, fee based WASH services at the community level is critical for attaining sustainability and improving the quality of these services.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Oxfam has had field offices in Tajikistan since 2001, primarily works with local community based organizations, NGOs, and partners, and has about 50 people, mostly local staff, working on disaster and risk reduction, WASH, economic and gender justice focusing on the most severe rural poor villages in the country. Most projects are initiated in consultation with local stakeholders to improve relevance, ownership and sustainability.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Despite several initiatives to improve the lives of the rural poor with some measured progress, some needed infrastructure such as water and sanitation, while being high cost, failed to make sustainable inroads in many poor communities. It was obvious that despite the role of WASH in reducing poverty, women's empowerment and local prosperity, without finding a way to ensure that local communities take ownership over control, maintenance and financing after construction, failure would continue.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

This pilot project will combine the best practices and evidence we have accumulated in the country so far to support and implement a local market for WASH services in a poor community that is suffering from a lack of water and sanitation, affecting their health, welfare, at a time when they lack the resources to remedy the situation themselves due to the extreme poverty level. Further, demonstrating that it is possible for a poor community to actually demand higher quality utility services, manage, operate and maintain them will have appreciable impact on other communities in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan facing similar poverty conditions while lacking WASH and facing drought and heavy reliance on agriculture for livelihoods and food security. Addressing the demand side of the intervention is critical for improving the efficiency of local water resource management while also improving the effectiveness and sustainability of the intervention.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

There has to be will and buy in from the local community to proceed with this project since they will ultimately operate, manage, maintain and pay for subsequent maintenance after the infrastructure is constructed in addition to active participation in local governance structures to protect the community's interests in the provision of safe and secure WASH services locally. Oxfam would facilitate consultations with local interested communities in rural poor Tajikistan in Kulob, Rudaki and Muminabad districts along with the establishment of relevant local community based organizations to operate, maintain and take part in this project. It will require cooperation with local authorities and state bodies. Ozfam has already built this trust and demonstrated it can be done in addition to comparing different local WASH projects to identify best practices and sustainability. Ultimately the community will be the driving force with Oxfam as facilitator and bridge builder to support WASH.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

There are return migrant workers in construction from Russia, literacy rates are high and the communities ability to adopt new skills, information is also high, high willingness to adopt new techniques, register local NGOs, along with recognition that self governance at the local level desperately needs improvements. Government authorities have also been cooperative in permitting similar local initiatives in WASH, local engineering firms familiar with local conditions are available.

Geographic Focus

The poorest and most vulnerable communities in the Khatlon region of Tajikistan, Central Asia

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

Maximum 36 months to cover community engagement through to construction and capacity building, local demand and market supports.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation: