Since the formulation of National Sanitation and Hygiene Master Plan, 2011 by Government of Nepal (GoN), there has been an overwhelming progress in the Sanitation sector mainly, construction of sanitation facilities and declaration of Open Defecation Free (ODF) zones. This movement has brought every stakeholder working in the sector of Sanitation into close coordination from the local level to the regional and in the national level as well. Formation of Coordination Committees at different levels, linkage to other WASH actors in accelerating the Sanitation movement and mobilization of communities following the ground of Equity and Inclusion has come into the picture of national WASH scenario. There are total 12 ODF Districts, out of 75 that include 1,111 Village Development Committees (VDCs) and Municipalities all around Nepal out of 3,915 VDCS and 58 municipalities.
Putting these achievements aside, it has also been important to take a pause and ponder upon the actual impact and change in behaviour of the communities where the services have been delivered. The nation-wide approach of universal coverage in access to sanitation has somewhere left the issues of functionality and sustainability unanswered. To check upon this, there is an urgent need of monitoring and analysis of how the services are being taken by the communities. To monitor the quality and impact of service deliveries made in Sanitation, there has been no robust mechanism of monitoring adopted yet. Since the coverage has gone national, so should be the monitoring in both output and outcome level. This makes the task even tedious demanding enormous resources of human and logistics. The paper based monitoring that has been used as the only tool till date will surely not bring up quality data leaving the analysis vague and difficulty in making decisions to plan way forward. Here comes in the introduction of Akvo FLOW, a mobile and web-based data collection and analytical tool that uses a mobile phone and an interactive dashboard in presence of internet service.
Akvo FLOW in Nepal
Moving ahead from the usual paper-based monitoring, Biogas Sector Partnership-Nepal (BSP-Nepal) first piloted FLOW in May 2012 to monitor technical and socio-economic impact of rainwater harvesting projects in Pachkhal VDC of Kavrepalanchowk district, Nepal. The process was supported by Akvo and RAIN Foundation – International NGO from Netherlands.
Later in June 2013, the Akvo Asia Hub organized intensive 3 days’ training to Nepal WASH Alliance (NWA) members on FLOW that proved to be the turning point for establishing FLOW as a data collection and monitoring tool in the sector of water, sanitation and hygiene. This training also had the representatives of Sector Efficiency Improvement Unit (SEIU) under the Ministry of Physical Planning & Works and Department of Water Supply & Sewerage (DWSS) from the government sector and HELVETAS from International Non-Government sector as an observer participant. Soon after this training, a FLOW Task Force was formed by Nepal WASH Alliance, which had representatives from Lumanti Support Group for Shelter (Lumanti), Environmental and Public Health Organization (ENPHO), Nepal Water of Health (NEWAH), Bio-gas Sector Partnership–Nepal (BSP-N), and Sector Efficiency Improvement Unit (SEIU). This task force was given the responsibility of conducting trainings to their field level staffs about the use of FLOW in mobile phones and developing a field level User Guide, which would explain the use of FLOW in mobile phones. In addition to this, the task force also is in charge of designing common survey forms for the Nepal WASH Alliance and providing support to each other whenever required.
The real time use of FLOW was conducted within the Nepal WASH Alliance in its outcome monitoring in November 2013 for the interventional projects of 2011-2012 and for and Baseline Data collection. Over 2800 household surveys were done by five different organizations of Nepal WASH Alliance and the effectiveness of FLOW was well tested during this period.
Scaling Up for FLOW in Nepal
Making a shift change from the conventional way of paper based data collection and monitoring system, 5 organizations from the Nepal WASH Alliance (NWA) viz. Lumanti Support Group for Shelter (Lumanti), Environmental and Public Health Organization (ENPHO), Nepal Water of Health (NEWAH), Bio-gas Sector Partnership–Nepal (BSP-N) and Centre for Community Development Nepal (CCDN) have used FLOW in the outcome monitoring and baseline collection of WASH projects supported by Dutch WASH Alliance. The outcome monitoring of household access to water and sanitation facilities along with their improvement in livelihood and baseline data collection of newly implemented projects was done using FLOW technology in the intervention areas of five members of Nepal WASH Alliance, which covered 2828 households. The total duration for this process took less than 2 weeks mobilising maximum of 4 enumerators from each organisation. Each enumerator was assigned with an android mobile phone through which the data collection was done and sent to the dashboard using internet connection (Wifi or 3G) from the mobile phone. The data collection was real time in a way that at the end of each day collecting data, the details could be visualized in the Google Map along with the GPS location of each household. With the exciting results of data collection using FLOW, other members of Nepal WASH Alliance are also committed to use this technology in coming days for their baseline data collection of their new project implementation areas.
Besides, the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (DWSS) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Akvo to use FLOW in monitoring its service in Nepal and is planning to use it for the initial monitoring of 25 water facilities. When successful, this could be further upscaled. Similarly, the International Non-Government Organisations are showing their keen interest to use FLOW in monitoring their services in regard to functionality and sustainability. Such news has surely increased hope of FLOW being institutionalised in Nepal in the sector of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.
With the advent of FLOW in the development sector of Nepal, now focused in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector, has possibilities of expanding into other sectors as well where a quality monitoring and evaluation can assist in planning better aspects of services to the community. This technology is modern, easy to use and marks accuracy and most importantly provides with real time data making the planners analyse and decide best options for the future. Interest being shown by the government and other development organisations in using FLOW as a monitoring tool has shown that it has been warmly welcomed in Nepal. The application of this tool for the monitoring of WASH programme is really give meaningful and visible practical results within short time and resources.
Jigmy Palzor Lama works as a Monitoring & Documentation Officer WASH for Lumanti Support Group for Shelter