Groupements de developpement agricole

The “agricultural development groups” (Groupements de developpement agricole, GDA)2 are today the main formal mechanisms for user participation in water management in Tunisia, but they are involved only in the supply and management of drinking water systems in rural areas. The GDAs are responsible for water quality and conservation, and they have a management contract with the government.

However, the GDAs often face serious financial difficulties - their revenues and their recovery rates are relatively low - as well as management problems, as they rely primarily on volunteers who do not always have the required skills to make repairs to the networks or to handle complex accounting matters (World Bank, 2005). Moreover, they have few available tools for dealing with customer complaints or communicating with rural people about their expectations. The province of Taroudant in Morocco (Box 2.4) illustrates the positive impact of greater local involvement at the different stages of a water project, particularly when it comes to social acceptance and payment of bills.

Making the GDAs more professional by strengthening their technical and administrative skills is a first step toward ensuring effective stakeholder participation, and this holds as well for projects involving the private sector in rural areas. Training workshops could be organised on priority topics such as maintenance of water networks so as to avoid breaks that disrupt service delivery. This will also require better horizontal co-ordination among the GDAs. Sharing experience and transferring knowledge among peers are useful tools for learning from past mistakes and for reproducing good practices on a larger scale. An annual meeting of the GDAs could be considered, or even the creation of a national association of GDAs, with a view to compiling experience and providing feedback, conveying regional concerns to the central level, and playing a representative role with government bodies in the decision-making process. The National Association of Water and Sanitation Service Providers (ANEAS) in Mexico illustrates how a federation of this kind can add value by disseminating know-how and knowledge and drawing lessons from the experience of sister organisations.

Box 2.4. User participation in drinking water supply:

The province of Taroudant in Morocco

The rural collective water supply programme (PAGER) was launched in 1995 to expand access to drinking water in the countryside. In all, 74 water supply systems were constructed between 2002 and 2008 in the province of Taroudant, in southern Morocco, serving a population of 86 000.

The conditions set for the construction of these systems included management by a users' association, application of water tariffs that cover management and maintenance costs, as well as a 5% financial participation by users in the investment costs. Consulting firms worked with the communities to create users' associations, whose members were elected at a general meeting. Under the supervision of the consultants, technical studies were performed and validated by the local population at each phase of the project. It was only after this validation process that people made their financial contribution.

The consultants provided training to the users' associations during project construction, and then offered ongoing coaching during the initial years of operation. The users established their own pricing structure, based on a dual tariff that involved a fixed charge and a volume-related charge, covering in principle all fixed costs, including renewal of the electromechanical equipment, as well as the variable costs.

In 2008, 99% of users were paying their bills, even though the price per cubic meter was higher than in the cities. The average bill was 45 dirhams (EUR 4.5) per month per connection in 2008. The maintenance and replacement funds created by the users’ associations had a total available balance of 7.3 million dirhams in 2008, or 150% of annual outlays. Distribution losses averaged 13%.

Source: Office National de l’Eau Potable(2009), “Programme d’approvisionnement en eau potable des populations rurales dans la province de Taroudant et de Tisnit”, Rapport d’exploitation des SAEP, 2008, KfW, IGIP/Beller.

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