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3 Questions with Robyn Tompkins on Planning Strategically for WASH in Botswana

| 4 Minute Read
Water and Sustainable Cities | Water Security, Sanitation, and Hygiene | Infrastructure

On World Water Day, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) specialist Robyn Tompkins discusses Botswana’s journey toward secure, clean, and accessible water resources for its people.

Robyn Tompkins is a water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) specialist based in Maun, Botswana. She is Botswana’s national Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS) consultant and the senior WASH advisor to the USAID Resilient Waters Program.

1. What is the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS) survey, and how was it introduced in Botswana?

The World Health Organization implements the GLAAS survey in more than 100 countries around the world every other year on behalf of UN-Water. With responses from WASH experts, the survey informs a wide range of stakeholders about the current state of WASH and the inputs — and enabling environments required — to extend and sustain WASH systems. There is particular emphasis on extending these services to disadvantaged groups.

About 2.4 billion people live without access to improved sanitation facilities, and nearly 600 million people live without access to treated drinking water. So, GLAAS provides a crucial, systemic evaluation of enabling environments for WASH on a national level. It highlights progress and shortcomings towards achieving WASH-related objectives under Sustainable Development Goal 6 — ensuring access to water and sanitation for all by 2030. Data from GLAAS also helps identify achievements, information gaps, and priorities for the WASH community.

The USAID Southern African Regional Environmental Program (SAREP) program started using GLAAS at a national level in Botswana to improve international monitoring and identify national WASH sector gaps. Botswana is landlocked with limited water resources, which presents a unique set of WASH challenges for the government, making it harder to ensure adequate, constant water supply for communities. For many years, management of WASH activities was decentralized. This made it difficult to measure and understand progress towards national targets in the WASH sector. In response, the government commissioned the Botswana National Water and Sanitation Master Plan in 2001, which set reforms in motion for 2008 onwards. In 2013, SAREP called a water supply stakeholders meeting. The group discussed how their institutions could collaborate to improve water supply to communities in SAREP’s project footprint in the Okavango basin. Enthused by the promise of improved financial and human resources efficiencies, the stakeholders soon formed the Water and Sanitation (WATSAN) Forum and, shortly thereafter, introduced GLAAS to Botswana.

SAREP supported the WATSAN forum meetings to foster critical buy-in from the relevant ministries and improve sector coordination. For instance, in 2014, SAREP provided support to the Department of Water Affairs to prepare the government’s first GLAAS survey report. The Botswana government has used these sector-wide assessments and gap analysis results to guide sector planning and development ever since. SAREP closed in 2016, but Botswanan participation in the GLAAS cycle continues with support from new programs like the USAID Resilient Waters Program.

2. What positive changes have you seen in Botswana as a result of its commitment to the GLAAS survey?

The GLAAS 2018/2019 cycle kicked off with a well-attended stakeholder meeting and data collection workshop last fall. I facilitated both meetings and was deeply impressed by the enthusiasm of the delegates. The meetings were a huge milestone in the process we began with SAREP more than five years ago. At the time of the first survey in 2014, the GLAAS process was not widely known, and many of the questions were left unanswered because the means for collecting the data for a response simply didn’t exist. In addition, Botswana had no lead agency for WASH issues, and sanitation fell into the institutional gap, with blurred mandates and no active sanitation programs in place. In terms of commitment to the survey itself, only two ministries participated — the Ministry of Energy, Minerals, and Water Resources and the Ministry of Health.

Botswana’s commitment to the process grew considerably in the 2016/2017 GLAAS cycle. For starters, a broad range of stakeholders contributed to the survey — including the Ministry of Health and Wellness; the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development; and the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, as well as two parastatal agencies. The Department of Water Affairs became the Department of Water and Sanitation; a water safety planning strategy has been initiated; Botswana is planning to join the Sanitation and Water for All Partnership; and the country has a brand-new hygiene promotion strategy.

3. How will the new Resilient Waters Program build upon this work to improve access to safe drinking water and sanitation in Botswana?

The Resilient Waters Program is building resilient and water-secure southern African communities and ecosystems through improved management of transboundary natural resources and increased access to safe drinking water and sanitation services. Building on the work of SAREP, the program focuses on capacity building and increased cooperation between people and institutions at the community, national, and regional levels.

Gaps identified through the GLAAS survey are being addressed in the 2018/2019 cycle with an enthusiastic WASH team of more than 25 people, who are now collaborating to complete the survey. Resilient Waters hosted a GLAAS gap analysis workshop in February and started writing a sanitation roadmap that will outline the measures, mechanisms, and budget allocations Botswana needs for sanitation services over the next two years. A key issue that emerged from the February gap analysis workshop is the need to develop a WASH management information system to help with decision-making and WASH planning. Resilient Waters’ WASH team is developing the scope of this activity, which will begin shortly after delivery of the sanitation roadmap.

I have seen firsthand how we’re building on the successes achieved by SAREP and the USAID Resilience in the Limpopo River Basin programs. Botswana has made significant strides towards ensuring that water resources are secure, clean, and accessible for its people. I’m hopeful for continued progress.

About Robyn Tompkins

Robyn Tompkins is a water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) specialist based in Maun, Botswana. She is Botswana’s national Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS) consultant and the senior WASH advisor to the USAID Resilient Waters Program.