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Above: Women getting water in the pipeline, Monrovia. Photo credit: Josje Spierings

From the 5 – 15 of October I gave my first Akvo FLOW field training. Working with my colleague Jeroen van der Sommen, we provided Akvo FLOW training to the Liberia WASH Consortium, and a refresher FLOW & RSR training to the Government of Liberia and its partner NGOs. For the latter we had great help from Abdul and Watara from the National Water Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion Committee (NWSHPC), who will be taking over Akvo FLOW & RSR training in Liberia.

But first a little history on the use of FLOW and RSR in Liberia:
In 2011, FLOW 1.0 was used for countrywide mapping by UNICEF, WSP and the Ministry of Public works. In November 2012, Akvo started working with the NWSHPC and implemented the Liberia WASH Portal within the framework of the WCAR UNICEF programme funded by DGIS. You can read more about the 2011 mapping in this blog.

The NWSHPC has just developed new government surveys: a Water Point Construction/Rehabilitation form, a Latrine Completion/Rehabilitation form and two Community-Lead Total Sanitation (CLTS) forms. And the Ministry of Public works is encouraging NGOs to fill in these forms using Akvo FLOW after constructing or rehabilitating water points and latrines. This way, all information collected about the new and rehabilitated water points and latrines will show up on the Liberia dashboard. Combined with the countrywide mapping data from 2011, this data gives the government a great overview of where all the points are located. The NWSHPC will then share this data on the WASH-Liberia website so that NGOs, along with anyone who is interested, can view it.

Our visit started with a two day Akvo FLOW training for the Liberia WASH Consortium (LWC), who have their own FLOW dashboard. The consortium partners use the dashboard to collect data for the government forms, but also to collect data for their own projects, such as an Irish Aid KAP project to collect data on LWC projects funded by Irish Aid.

The first day of the training focused on getting to know the phones. After a Sunday of setting up the phones with Cathy Stephen of LWC, they were handed out to the partners. For some of them it was the first time working with a smartphone, so there was still a lot to learn.

But the group was great and were all quick learners, so after lunch everybody was comfortable with the smartphones. In the afternoon they had their first try with FLOW, testing out the Irish Aid KAP survey in the parking lot of the hotel where the training took place.
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Above: Practicing with FLOW. Photo credit: Josje Spierings

On the second day we had a recap of the previous day and the group practiced the new government forms. Afterwards we did a short evaluation with the FLOW phones, which showed that all the participants are very enthusiastic about using FLOW.

They will soon start collecting data, so if you are curious about what they are mapping, you can keep an eye on the Liberia WASH Consortium public map and see the points they are collecting pop up soon.

Wednesday was the first day of training for the Government of Liberia, which took place in the Ministry of Public Works in Monrovia. This was a refresher training because part of the group had already attended training with Jeroen and FLOW product manager Mark Westra earlier this year.

Everybody present brought their own smartphone, so the first order of business was to install the phones with the FLOW app and get all the new government forms on there.  After that we showed the group the dashboard and made a little breakfast survey, analysing the breakfast they got that morning (which the data showed was good).

Next it was time to practice the new government forms, which was very important because we would be testing in the field the very next day.

For field testing, we divided into three groups in five cars and got on our way to the pipeline area in Monrovia to test out the government forms in the field. The picture below shows why it is called the pipeline area:

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Above: The pipeline, which gave this area in Monrovia its name. Photo credit: Jeroen van der Sommen

The field practice was great. My group visited two water points and a latrine facility, and the group really enjoyed filling in the forms. Even the rain showers did not bring down their enthusiasm. (Monrovia is the wettest capital in the world, and during our visit it was rainy season.)

We met a lot of interesting people in the pipeline area. For example, a water caretaker who told Jeroen and Watara his story: although the water delivery is running smoothly, the agreement made about his payment has not been met by the sewage company. For the last eight months he has received neither a salary nor payment to maintain his facility. You can find his story in this RSR update.

In the field we also tested the point-updating feature of Akvo FLOW, which will be released soon. With this feature it is possible to go back to a point you mapped with FLOW and update the information you collected earlier or add new data.

On the third day, the training and forms were reviewed and a short RSR refresher training was given. At the moment there are 35 WASH projects on the WASH-Liberia website.

It was a great week during which I met many interesting people, gave Akvo FLOW and RSR training, but I also got to learn a lot – about Liberia and about giving training. You can find all the photos of the training on Flickr.

So keep an eye on WASH-Liberia, the WASH Consortium FLOW page and the Public FLOW map of the Government of Liberia, and you will see the data coming in.

Josje Spierings is a project coordinator at Akvo, focusing on our open data partnerships and activities.