Water for Life: Using CLA to Transform a WASH System into a Self-Reliant Apparatus
In the remote, highland areas of Bandarban District in southeastern Bangladesh, home to a dozen distinct ethnic groups, the USAID-funded Development Food Security Activity, Sustainable Agriculture and Production Linked to Improved Nutrition Status, Resilience and Gender Equity (SAPLING), has been working with the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) since 2015 to improve resilience capacity, food security, and nutrition for poor and extreme poor households. The case presented here demonstrates how allocation of time and resources at the outset of the activity to better understand the context, and continued reflection and evaluation with multiple stakeholders throughout the activity cycle, underscores and informs effective collaboration and intervention designs to strengthen a self-managed system of essential service delivery. The development challenge addressed in this case is increasing access to safe water for marginalized and under-served populations. Because little information or data existed on key development outcomes and activity implementation in Bandarban, the proposal advocated for a ‘Coordination, Learning, and Reflecting Agenda’ (later "Collaborating, Learning, and Adapting” or “CLA") as critical to ensuring interventions could lead to sustainable, transformational change. Multiple bodies of research, assessments, and routine monitoring data, as well as implementation experience, pause and reflect workshops (internal and external), regular collaborative meetings with external stakeholders, and regular technical support for external implementation informed the decision to focus on strengthening public and private Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) service provision and WASH structures. The CLA approach, still ongoing, has resulted in a self-reliant, functioning system that connects self-managed and self-financed community structures to local government institutes that are now implementing transparent and evidence-based resource allocation for WASH needs, and to trained, accountable government service providers and a stronger WASH private sector.