Assuming ownership of the future

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Eschborn, 26 July 2007. The absence of a safe water supply poses a significant obstacle to development in the West African country of Benin. Only every second person has access to clean drinking water. Even in towns and cities, pipelines serve only about 60% of the population. Anyone who has to drink from open watering places or streams inevitably contracts diarrhoea, one of the most frequent causes of death among children. The Government of Benin – which has a population of seven million – is now tackling these problems by improving drinking water supply and sanitation in selected cities, towns and communities.

On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) is advising Benin on implementing a national strategy for the sustainable management of water resources. “We are using a three-track approach”, explains Conrad Thombansen, GTZ expert at the Beninese Ministry of Mining, Energy and Hydraulics.

All stakeholders in the sector must start by coordinating their tasks and responsibilities more effectively, both at inter-ministerial level and within the individual administrative bodies. This is a must if the infrastructural building components are to be implemented in the municipalities in a planned and coordinated manner.

Organisational development consultancy services are being provided to the national water supply utility, which is responsible for urban areas. Targeted training courses are provided for employees, to increase the organisational efficiency and user-orientation of regional offices.

Tasks related to rural water supply are being redistributed through the decentralisation of administrative structures. Regional offices for water resources management are to support local authorities in planning expansion measures and monitoring the operation of water supply systems. The operations themselves are to be handed over to local service providers from the private sector to a greater degree, allowing local government to focus on key sovereign tasks, such as the integrated management of water resources and supervision of water supply and waste water disposal.

“Together with our partners, we aim to significantly improve the quality of drinking water in Benin by 2015, by providing at least 75% of the population with access to safe drinking water”, states Thombansen. This means that an additional three million consumers throughout Benin must be connected to the supply network, half of these with the support of German Development Cooperation. The availability of private and public toilets is also to be improved, with a view to providing the entire population with access to a toilet within a 250 metre radius. Thombansen explains: “Our activities focus on the suburbs of larger towns and cities, and on selected rural communities. That is our contribution to the sustainable development of Benin.”

The advisory services underpin investments by the KfW Entwicklungsbank (KfW development bank), which provides funding for infrastructure expansion. The German Development Service (DED) also supports the project by assigning additional experts.

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