Rural Sanitation in Southern Africa

A Focus on Institutions and Actors

2006 Occasional Paper
By Practical Action Consulting

Water, sanitation and hygiene are essential for achieving all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and hence for contributing to global poverty eradication (Global Water Partnership, 2000). This thematic paper contributes to the learning process on scaling up poverty reduction by describing and analyzing three programmes in rural sanitation in Africa: the national rural sanitation sector reform in Zimbabwe, the national sanitation programme in South Africa and the national sanitation programme in Lesotho. These three programmes have achieved, or have the potential to achieve, development results at a national scale exceeding the average rates of progress for Sub-Saharan Africa. The lessons from these programmes are useful for other people around the world. None of them is perfect, but they all demonstrate good work at a large scale. Although water supply, sanitation and hygiene promotion should be considered as one interlinked sector it is increasingly recognized that where programmes or projects are touted as Water and Sanitation (WatSan) very little is done in terms of sanitation improvement and the bias is always to provide water supply hardware. Whilst improved water supply may reduce the incidence of faecal-oral diseases, other transmission routes require intervention through sanitation and hygiene promotion. Sanitation and hygiene promotion create demand for improved facilities. This is important because in some communities people may be satisfied with current sanitation practices, albeit unhygienic, or they may be unfamiliar with alternatives. Access to safe drinking water and sanitary means of human excreta disposal is regarded as a universal need and key to human development (UNICEF, 2004). Sanitation services are critical to poverty reduction, growth and the achievement of the MDGs. It is estimated that investment must double from the current USD15 billion to USD 30 billion annually to achieve the MDG 7 for the sanitation sector.