On World Water Day, community input and governance is key to water sustainability

A borehole is repaired in Bombonyenga Village, thanks to the local water association. A borehole is repaired in Bombonyenga Village, thanks to the local water association. A borehole is repaired in Bombonyenga Village, thanks to the local water association. In order to manage the water boreholes across the Bombonyenga Village, the community founded a Water User’s Association to oversee mobilizing the people and resources that keep the human-powered pumps up and running. Following training and coaching from USAID|REGIS-ER project, which NCBA CLUSA is implementing in Niger and Burkina Faso, the association is key to keeping the water services accountable, transparent and uplifting community responsibility for key resources.

Bombonyenga Village is in Gnagna province, in the east of Burkina Faso. Key to this water management was getting community buy-in from subscription fees. According the Water Association president, Paul Guibougou, subscription fees were hard to enforce three years ago. With improvements in water quality through trainings in transportation and storage and clear responsibilities outlined for water association managers, the subscription fees were finally supporting the resource management.

Guibougou’s duty as a president is to coordinate and monitor actions at the water source, to summon meetings when there is a problem and to manage the subscription money and keep everyone informed.

“What I like above all is to support borehole settlement and management and provide advice to community members around good practices. Last year, for World Water Day, I was able to tell our association’s story on the local radio,” said Guibougo. With the support from the water association, Bombonyenga Village became famous across the region for their well-maintained systems.

The community-led water association organized general assemblies to talk about subscriptions, expenses and the state of the boreholes. They began training at the household level to raise awareness about hygiene and proper water storage and use. With the awareness trainings and rallying the community, it was easier to explain the subscription fees – that they were for the maintenance of access to potable water, not about paying for water as a utility. The income, transparent through the association, was being used to pay the pump managers and offset high access periods, like around the traditional celebrations, when strain gets put on the system. Breakdowns now last no longer than two days.

“My family can access water at any moment. Hygiene around water has obviously been increased… the association continues to inform and consult me as chief,” said Banbedo Yiessongou Bourgou, the traditional village chief. With his support, the community has more fully embraced the resource management, and as example he pays his subscription fee based on his household size, which is substantial.

In 2017, the community came together when the water association alerted them to a broken borehole platform. The association decided to repair the platform surrounding the borehole, also called a superstructure that is supposed to protect it and keep it clean for water collection. A broken platform can jeopardize the water quality right from its spouting out of the pump. The community mobilized, everyone contributed, sometimes in cash, sometimes in kind, bringing cement and ingredients for the community meal to feed volunteers coming to give a helping hand to the mason and its team.

Adjara Mano, a storekeeper and borehole user was happy with restoration process. “It’s good for the kid’s security, it is a great barrier against the dust when we use the pump and helps to keep it safe from animal contact. I really appreciate being informed each year about how our money is being spent,” she said.

The transparency in governance has been key to community support for water systems.

“Should all associations work like this the water problem would be nearly solved!” said the President of the Environmental and Local Development commission in the region Kiankiadou Namoutougou. “What makes the difference is that Bombonyenga’s water association management knows their responsibilities and effectively handles issues. Moreover, they promote transparent management of their fund. The village is not suffering from water shortages thanks to their professionalism and dedication.”

For 2018, the Bonbonyenga Water Association has been listening to the community. They plan to change their subscription fee structure to reflect usage by volume instead of a flat annual subscription, based on requests.

And they are looking to expand their partnerships and best practices. Working with the commune level council, they are looking to organize a cross-village event where water associations across the region would exchange strategies and successes. This could lead to partnerships for new boreholes, and improve water management across the region. As the success of Bombonyenga shows, sustaining potable water services takes good governance and community support.

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