Posted by: wfpdc | September 19, 2012

WASH + Conservation: International Development Community Continues Merging WASH and Conservation Sectors

September 10, 2012

Less than one percent of our planet’s water is fresh water, and this life-giving resource supports humans as well as some 126,000 other species. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects that integrate watershed management and environmental sustainability are best for helping preserve our natural ecosystems and freshwater supplies for future generations. To underscore this point, WASH implementation can actually reduce freshwater resources and cause further ecological harm if conservation management issues are ignored.

Washington D.C.’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars hosted a panel to discuss these issues, detailed in David Bonnardeaux’s recent report entitled “Linking Biodiversity Conservation and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene: Experiences from sub-Saharan Africa.” The report, released June 30, 2012, documents a USAID-sponsored initiative to review on-ground development projects addressing both WASH and freshwater conservation issues. Conservation International (CI) and the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) were partnered in the project. Author Bonnardeaux, CRS technical WASH expert, Dennis Warner, and CI representative Bruno Rajaspera were present for the discussion. The full report can be viewed at


Tanzania: Pangani Basin Environmental Flow Assessment
Funded by the IUCN Water & Nature Initiative, the Tanzanian government, the European Commission, and the UN Development Program. EFAs evaluate river basin hydrology, ecosystem flow dynamics and water’s socioeconomic value. These are becoming the standard for determining water amounts needed to sustain both aquatic ecosystems and human needs. Data was collected to produce a basin hydrology model, a river and estuary health assessment, a socio-economic baseline assessment, a river flow assessment tool, and specialty studies (hydropower operations, vegetation, fisheries, macroeconomics, and climate change). From this information, 15 future scenarios were calculated to consider water needs for domestic, agricultural, and energy use. Water-use efficiency was recommended as the main priority area for regional water management due to increasing use of water for agriculture.

South Africa: Working for Wetlands in South Africa
Funded by the Government of South Africa and the South African National Biodiversity Institute, this is one example of a Payment for Watershed Services program, or PWS, involving payment by beneficiaries for use and maintenance of their watershed through an incentive-based approach. The project focused on removing invasive species in the wetland to improve water flow. An economic incentive for the community motivated over 62 workers to build concrete and earth structures to control erosion, as well as remove invasive alien plant species. The government, who shouldered the majority of project costs, now realizes a USD $1 million return on its investment.

Madagascar: Ranon’ala Project
Funded by USAID, CI, and CRS, it provided clean water and sanitation to remote communities using Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) approaches. Activities included a public awareness campaign to increase knowledge of family planning, WASH and Population, Health and Environment (PHE) integration, capacity building through employ of field agents and community health workers, field visits to monitor progress, and creation of water infrastructure. One main challenge identified was that of project staff walking many hours to reach extremely remote communities. Also, the project dealt with environmental issues of cyclones and other natural disasters. Main lessons were that physical presence is important during project implementation, a variety of communication tools are needed for best results, and integrated PHE messages were key.


1) WASH implementation can reduce freshwater resources if conservation management issues are ignored
2) WASH sector does not address climate change issues well or at all
3) Difficult for development sectors to work together intellectually (e.g. WASH and conservation sectors)
4) Difficult to find integrated projects for study
5) M&E tools inadequate for measuring WASH/conservation integration (currently measure implementation of each separately)
6) Current lack of conservation integration in planning efforts; this should be ongoing and long-term
7) Cost of conflict adds to environmental and other costs in development (e.g. river dams, gang violence)


1) Cost & effective sharing save money (e.g. less personnel needed, fewer resources)
2) Experiencing success in shorter-term health goals through WASH can create community buy-in for longer term goals of conservation projects
3) Both specialist and generalist personnel are needed to avoid siloed water vs. conservation camps
4) EFA’s and PW’s have good potential for WASH integration
5) Better M&E systems are needed for integration of systems
6) WASH guidelines are currently found mainly in emergency response programming; need exists for WASH guidelines in conservation programs


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