Capacity support - local government

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Sustainability challenges of
the Ghana water sector
Funds allocation - local government

Capacity support refers to on-going support activities towards water service authorities (typically local governments) to enable them to fulfill their role (planning, monitoring, regulation, etc.) in sustaining rural water services. This may also include the provision of technical assistance and training of service authority staff around the key functions for which they are responsible.

Why is it important for sustainable services at scale?

A growing number of governments in developing countries have devolved the responsibility for water and sanitation services to local government. Whilst it is recognised that capacity support is critical to successful decentralisation, in practice, the type of support required has been lacking, resulting in a vicious circle of low capacity and service delivery failure.

Chronic problems

Triple-S country studies point to chronic capacity problems across all areas of local government in countries where local governments struggle to carry out even basic functions related to the provision of rural water services. One consequence is a low level of trust or confidence on the part of national authorities, which hampers efforts towards further decentralisation. National policies of decentralisation to local authorities have often not been backed up with adequate capacity development and resources to support the new responsibilities that include many roles, including provision of water and sanitation services.

Capacity challenges at the local level broadly fall in three categories:

  • Technical skills required to fulfill the new set of responsibilities,
  • Structural human resource weaknesses facing public administration in general
  • Broader institutional limitations shaped by patchy and limited funding mechanisms.

Various approaches to strengthening capacity

A number of support modalities can be identified ranging in support from central government directly, to support contracted out from central government or horizontal support.

Support from Central government is the most common arrangement. In Uganda Technical Support Units provide support to all Districts; in South Africa the decentralised offices of the Department of Water Affairs have set up ‘one stop shops’ to ensure Water Service Authorities have access to specialist expertise and meet performance targets.

Peer-support or “horizontal learning” is common in Honduras and Bolivia where municipalities join forces to contract specific expertise.

Support contracted out from central government to specialised training centres.


  • Long term funding is required to provide capacity support to local government
  • Functions of all actors should be clarified following decentralisation process
  • Local government should be incentivised by linking performance to funding and tailored-made technical support.

Field experiences

The following projects are making use of capacity support:

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RSR Project 477
Creating an enabling environment for WASH
RSR Project 495
Sustainable progress in WASH
RSR Project 767
Access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene
RSR Project 388
WASH Alliance project, AMREF in Ethiopia
RSR Project 392
GLOW-Guided learning on Water and Sanitation
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RSR Project 533
Support on WASH - in Miyo woreda
RSR Project 398
Rainwater Harvesting Capacity Center
RSR Project 351
Cost effective means of financing WASH
RSR Project 555
Media Forum
RSR Project 468
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RSR Project 456
Partnership in WASH services delivery
RSR Project 572
Introducing 3R in impact areas of DWA
RSR Project 469
Implementing an IWRM process in Mashuru
RSR Project 559
Promoting sustainable access to WASH services
RSR Project 366
WASH Sustainability through Women Led MFI

Selected references, tools and templates

Other links


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