Since the responsibility for water and sanitation services provision is that of local government, sector stakeholders (including national government, water boards and non-governmental organisations) see their role as one of support to local government in both project implementation and ongoing services provision.

Support is most often defined as capacity building and training where capacity building covers the full gamut of support from advising, training and mentoring, through to organisational systems development and adequate resourcing of the organisation.

The Mvula Trust support strategy

To assist local government in its challenging role as Water Services Authority, the Mvula Trust has adopted a three-pronged support strategy:

  • Formal training through participatory workshops and presentations.
  • Development of supporting tools and documents (e.g. model contracts, monitoring checklists, outcomes-based institutional and social development contracts, Water Services Provider selection rating checklists, tools for assessing Water Services Authority and Water Services Provider capacity for sustainable water services provision, etc.); and
  • Interfacing with local government at local level through policy, pilot projects and infrastructure project implementation support.
  • Over the past two years Mvula has provided training and capacity building support to district and local municipalities in Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Northern Province, North West, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Eastern Cape.

Training courses and materials

Training materials and courses have been designed in the following key support areas:

  • The legislative and policy framework for water services;
  • Institutional arrangements for sustainable rural water services;
  • Project sustainability support; and Public-community municipal services partnerships.

Methods used include interactive plenary slide presentations; small group work, including discussions and working with checklists or rating scales or problem scenarios; developing visual models for conceptual issues; as well as more creative-expressive methods such as role play and drama.

Principles for training

Based on lessons and experience gained through initiatives to date, the following methodological principles for training have been identified:

  • All training should be designed to address the gap between existing and necessary skills and capacity to fulfil identified roles and functions i.e. training should be needs- and capacity-based rather than driven by modules and supply.
  • Local government should be engaged in identifying its own training needs within the framework of its functional requirements.
  • Training methodologies should build on and make effective use of the knowledge and skills participants bring to the training situation.
  • Training methodologies should be driven by both the content and the outcomes to be achieved.
  • Training must allow for as much interaction and learning from other participants as possible.
  • The timing of training is significant in that opportunities for applying and practising skills and knowledge gained are critical for reinforcing learning.
  • Materials for reading are an important adjunct, but should not be overloaded. Training materials should therefore be brief, accessible, clear and user-friendly.

Role of national government and others in developing support strategies

The Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) is driving a process to ensure that local government capacity building and training strategies across sectors are aligned. The then Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) now Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), The Mvula Trust, water boards and others have engaged both with DPLG and the sector to develop a water services support strategy.

The draft DWAF Water Services: Local Government Capacity Building and Training Support Strategy (June 2001), defines capacity development as: the process to developing human resources, water services structures, as well as institutional and legal frameworks, so that the ability of the individual Water Services Authorities is enhanced to enable effective, efficient and sustainable performance of water services functions.

The Mvula Trust provided extensive comment and recommendations for aligning the DPLG and the then DWAF strategies by comparing them across a number of dimensions, including how the strategies are located with regard to mandate and proposed institutional linkages; definitions of training and capacity building; purpose; target audience; principles; vision; problems or gaps to be addressed; areas of support proposed; objectives to be achieved; indicators of successful implementation; and how the strategies intend to mobilise the necessary resources for its implementation.

In terms of their principles, both strategies believe that effective, efficient capacity development should be relevant to local government’s legislative roles, responsibilities and functions. They must be incremental and aligned to the capacity gaps or needs of the municipalities, acknowledging that this capacity gap is different for different municipalities.

The draft Water Services Strategy will be integrated into the DWAF Human Resources Water Sector Capacity Building Strategy which, in turn, will form part of DPLG’s overall capacity building strategy.

Capacity development is an ongoing process through partnerships and interventions arising from these strategies. It must be competency-based, performance-based, needs- based, integrative, and allow for transfer of learning.

Lessons and recommendations

It is imperative that the following lessons and recommendations are taken into account in the development of these and individual municipal support strategies:

  • There should be an increased focus on the development of tools for decision-making, problem solving, and contracting and monitoring service providers.
  • Training initiatives should forge relationships and develop partnerships with local stakeholders such as NGOs to co-ordinate interventions. The links between formal training and other capacity building interventions are critical. They should be designed in tandem to achieve proactively identified capacity objectives and outcomes, allowing sufficient time for skills and knowledge to be integrated and applied.
  • Training should be evaluated against clear objectives and outcomes (linked to existing and required capacity) to be achieved rather than numbers of training sessions conducted.
  • Training courses and methodologies should be approved through a central body such as the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) or the Local Government Water and related services Sector Education Training Authority (LGWSETA).
  • Councillors and officials must be conversant with the legal and policy framework in the water supply and sanitation sector.
  • Municipalities must understand the distinction between Water Services Authority regulatory and planning functions, and the service provision functions (to be undertaken by the Authority itself, or by a Water Services Provider on contract to the Authority).
  • Training providers must demonstrate commitment to developmental approaches (and this should be a selection and approval criterion).

The Mvula Trust commitment

The Mvula Trust remains committed to working in partnership with municipalities, government both at national and local level and in continuing to provide them with a high standard of training and capacity support. It will do this in partnership with other reputable training providers, and in keeping with the overarching principles of the strategies of DPLG and DWS.