From December 2010 to May 2011, the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) conducted a systematic inventory of water points in Liberia using FLOW. The data collected will become the basis for a detailed atlas and investment plan for the Government of Liberia to increase safe water coverage. The information in this Case was derived from the WASH Liberia Watermapping Summary and Q&A documents on the subject.

Background

After the end of the Civil War in 2003, the initial emergency response provided critical relief, but water sector interventions were often uncoordinated and not comprehensive. Safe water coverage is still low, with barely half of the rural population having access to an improved source (source: JMP/WHO). The aim of the project was to provide the basis for a coordinated, comprehensive, and well-targeted investment programme to improve safe water coverage and reduce diseases.

Project implementation

The project to map all Liberian safe waterpoints was developed, prepared, and successfully implemented within six months from December 2010 to May 2011. Follow up
activities, such as the creation of an investment plan, and water quality testing, are currently underway.

In December 2010, preparation meetings were held with the local partner, the Ministry of Public Works, and other stakeholders (UNICEF, WASH Consortium, etc.), to define which knowledge of water points was required. Thirty lead mappers (two from each county) were introduced to FLOW, and tasked with arranging mappers, motorcycles, local training facilities, fuel storage, etc. A small pilot mapping exercise was carried out.

In January 2011, WSP trained 150 locally recruited mappers in two-day sessions. The mappers were grouped in teams of two, each equipped with a FLOW device and a motorbike. After a week of testing, the 75 motorised mapping teams mapped all of Liberia. WSP Project coordinators managed the successful implementation of the project, taking care of fuel-resupplies, replacement of broken devices, data retrieval where automatic network transmission failed, and so on. WSP employed 15-20 monitoring and evaluation staff to ensure data quality with diligent spot checks.

During March, all rural data was evaluated, cleaned and a preliminary analysis report was written and presented to Liberian stakeholders. In April and May, the urban phase of the mapping took place.

Short documentary film on water point mapping using Akvo FLOW in Liberia.

Main challenges and lessons learned

The primary challenges of this project were logistical given the difficult environment that Liberia still poses, especially with respect to basic infrastructure. Given the absence of paved roads in most of the country, keeping mapping teams supplied with fuel and motorcycle spare parts was challenging and imposed extra costs. The widespread lack of grid-electricity or generators made it necessary to purchase external battery adapters for the FLOW devices to allow them to be powered by standard AA batteries.

The absence of mobile phone network coverage outside county capitals, and high costs of mobile data transfer, made it necessary to fall back on physical data collection (download directly from the SD storage card in the devices). However, this did not pose a great practical problem, as data could be collected during fuel and spare part resupply missions and monitoring and evaluation activities.

Funding and partners

The project was funded by the World Bank WSP Programme (60%), UNICEF (35%), and CHF/USAID (5%) with considerable logistical and knowledge support coming from the Ministry of Public Works, the Liberian statistical agency LISGIS, the Ministry of Health, Water For People, and the local WASH Consortium, in particular OXFAM.

WSP’s primary government partner was the Ministry of Public Works, which provided office space, local knowledge and contacts, help with recruitment, and official government support and legitimisation.

Learn more about Akvo FLOW here.

Mark Tiele Westra is a programme manager at Akvo, based in Amsterdam.