The beginning of the road: Swaziland convenes first joint sector review

4 min read

In September 2016, Swaziland’s water and sanitation sector assembled to discuss and review water, sanitation and hygiene issues through a joint sector review (JSR). Ncamiso Mhlanga, WaterAid’s Country Team Leader in Swaziland, reports back on the benefits of JSRs for the sector.

September’s joint sector review (JSR) in Swaziland was the very first time that the country’s water resources and supply sector had come together to discuss sector performance. Due to poor sector coordination, lack of capacity and segregated management systems, the sector had not previously taken an initiative to meet and discuss collectively sector performance. Through the country programme, WaterAid took the initiative to strengthen the sector and bridge the existing gaps. The JSR was introduced as a tool for improving sector coordination, monitoring and reporting.

Attendees at Swaziland's first joint sector review
Attendees at Swaziland's first joint sector review
Image: WaterAid

WaterAid played a key role in ‘sparking’ this process, by facilitating an experience-sharing and learning visit for senior government officials to Uganda, We provided further technical support and guidance throughout the process, under government leadership. A JSR process has proven to be vital for strengthening the processes and institutions needed to deliver and sustain water and sanitation services, so we wanted to offer support.

JSRs are fundamental for drastic and meaningful change in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector because they enable full stakeholder participation in the diagnosis of sector challenges and collective crafting of response mechanisms. Evidence from other countries shows that effective JSRs can improve WASH sector planning, coordination, reporting and monitoring by bringing sector stakeholders together around a common development pathway.

Time to reflect

The JSR was very interesting as it managed to bring together the entire water sector to a collective platform to discuss its work which was the very first of its kind to occur. The meeting discussed pertinent issues such as lack of sustainability in water supply interventions and also we saw varying statistics that needed harmonisation. The inadequate WASH sector funding was also highlighted as key for the sector to achieve its ambitious target of 100% coverage by 2022. Although this was well attended, it was however noticed that development partners did not attend very well, which could be improved in the next JSR.

Swaziland is pressing forward towards ‘Vision 2022’ – universal access to safe water and sanitation by 2022. The JSR was a valuable opportunity for the WASH sector to sit down and reflect on its performance and consider the steps needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 6 on WASH. Proving the importance of this opportunity, four cabinet ministers attended the event, and Acting Prime Minister Senator Paul Dlamini officially opened it.

The review brought together about 120 stakeholders from across the water sector, including senior government officials, parliamentarians, WASH NGOs, the private sector, development partners, water users, community representatives and the media. The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) secretariat representative for water portfolio was also present on behalf of the Southern Africa Region, alongside the Water Ministry of Lesotho, the WaterAid regional team from Lesotho, Zambia and South Africa, and the Ugandan Ministry of Water and Irrigation. A multi-sector local organisation committee guided the process.

A success and a beginning

The JSR was seen as a huge success by the WASH stakeholders in attendance, and provided a much-needed platform for members of the Swaziland water and sanitation sector to strategically engage and plan holistically for the future. In particular, the formation of the multi-stakeholder JSR coordination team with the involvement of central government ministries like the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Economic Planning and Development was found to be fundamental in bridging knowledge gaps and improving understanding of the need for improved sector financing.

But the first JSR has also been a learning process for Swaziland, and it will take further JSRs to perfect the process, which must be owned by the national stakeholders willing to take responsibility for participation and planning. Ongoing collaboration and good organisation are also critical for a successful JSR. The water and sanitation sector still tends to plan in silos and with continuous collective planning and reporting, the JSR processes will be perfected.

There is now a need to institutionalise the JSR process and establish a secretariat that will ensure JSR outcomes and recommendations are followed intently. Fortunately there are positive signs: the Government committed to ‘having annual JSR meetings’, and the Honourable Minister for Natural Resources and Energy, Senator Jabulile Mashwama, commented that “This was our first JSR. It is the beginning of the road and, as a government, we are committed to follow this process from this day on and we are already looking forward to the next JSR!”

It is clear that Swaziland has embarked on a journey that will transform the WASH sector and address inequalities in water and sanitation access, and is on course to achieve the 2030 SDGs. Collective reporting and monitoring will enable the country to systematically report on its progress on achieving the SDGs, and address potential roadblocks and bottlenecks.

Ncamiso Mhlanga is WaterAid’s Country Team Leader, Swaziland.

Read the full report in English