There are many potential benefits from community mobilisation but it also presents several challenges. It is a complex, long-term process that requires considerable resources. For the long-term benefits to be realised, the process needs trained and effective leaders, organisers and facilitators with the necessary skills and it needs continuing support over a period of time. For these reasons it can be expensive. There are also challenges linked to the nature of urban communities. In particular there will be challenges associated with extreme poverty, informal settlements and slum areas, migration, governance issues and also disaster and emergency conditions. There may be huge variation in culture and habits, as well as in attitudes and awareness and language issues. You need to be able to adopt systematic community mobilisation strategies that are appropriate to the reality on the ground.
Urban WASH interventions always need to consider community interest. You should be especially alert to any factors likely to subvert collaborative efforts. Specific goals and objectives should be established that attempt to tackle the prioritised problem. They should be based on a general strategy of community mobilisation, consensus and cooperation, for the service delivery and long-term benefit of the community as a whole.
Now look again at the Case Study below and answer the following questions:
Identify which key steps Gelila omitted in planning the latrine project?
Before embarking on the construction of the latrines, Gelila did not engage the community through regular communication and information sharing. She did not help the community to prepare for the new facility, they were not involved in the organisation of the project.
What other opportunities did she lose by not engaging the community at earlier stages?
She lost the opportunity of winning the interest of the community, which affected the sustainability of the project. She didn’t try to generate resources and ideas from the community that could help them to feel more empowered and might have enabled her to achieve better results and maximise the impact of the project.
The sustainability of water, sanitation and hygiene improvements has continued to challenge low-income countries governments and those involved in development projects. Due to their social, cultural, economic and educational diversities, urban communities are more complex than rural communities. The sustainability of urban WASH can be more challenging in urban communities and this is partly because of the difficulties involved in mobilising urban communities.
Where the internal sustainability of urban WASH projects had been successful and challenges in mobilising local communities overcome, these successes have generally been attributed to:
- high quality leadership in the community
- good social cohesion and gender equality
- good management capability, skills and education
- sense of community ownership and legal ownership, which brings commitment from the community and willingness to pay for capital costs
- existence of an effective management system for financing operation and maintenance, including collecting and managing funds for recurrent costs – this encourages the community to raise money for major rehabilitation or replacement
- appropriate service level and technology of water supply systems, latrines and related WASH facilities
- introducing appropriate WASH facility management systems, appropriate to the local income levels, knowledge and culture.