Lessons Learned from the 10-Year Rotary–USAID Partnership

The Rotary–USAID partnership provided this clinic in Osedzi with a borehole and a solar-powered pump. Photo credit: Rotary International/Andrew Esiebo
The Rotary–USAID partnership provided this clinic in Osedzi with a borehole and a solar-powered pump. Photo credit: Rotary International/Andrew Esiebo

Since 2009, a partnership between the Rotary and USAID has combined the local community leadership of Rotarian volunteers with the Agency’s technical expertise. Throughout, the focus of the program has been on accomplishing three goals: improving sanitation and hygiene in schools and health facilities; increasing community access to safe drinking water; and advocating for ample government financing of WASH—that is, water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Ghana was one of three pilot countries when the program kicked off. “As a result of this partnership, we’ve been able to reach out to some very deprived communities,” says Emmanuel Odotei, WASH management specialist for USAID/Ghana. “If USAID had tried to do this alone, or if Rotary had done it alone, we would never have achieved as much as we have today.”

Last summer, representatives of the partnership toured some of the communities where it had implemented projects. Based on this, a detailed story about the Sustainability Challenge was created for Rotary’s December 2019 issue of The Rotarian magazine. Some of the lessons learned are outlined below.

Lessons 1 & 2: Don’t Forget the Broader Community and Financial Planning is Crucial

Improvements affect more than just the target school or village. Also, an income stream, through fees or levies, is essential to provide money for repairs. It is important to teach the local committee to establish an accounting system and put money in the bank. Learn more.

Lessons 3 & 4: Get Government Support Early and Invest in Changing Hygiene Habits

Cooperation from local government officials is essential for sustainability. Also, the partnership is about more than facilities. Teaching handwashing skills can have as great an effect as higher-priced interventions. Learn more.

Lessons 5 & 6: Make Sure Government Stays Involved and Choose the Technology that Suits the Local Context

Once government is involved, it is important to keep it involved so local committees are not left to manage complex facilities on their own. Also, the right technology is important. But if the community cannot advocate for its ongoing needs, unsanitary conditions can render the improvements useless. Learn more

Lessons 7 & 8: Be Prepared to Work Incrementally and Keep Communities Accountable

Some solutions have to be implemented in stages. In one Ghana community, a manual borehole led to a water storage tank and later solar panels. Also, local committees need ongoing consultation so they can learn to hold themselves accountable and make action plans to address any shortcomings. Learn more.

For a full look at the Rotary-USAID partnership’s work in Ghana, detailed stories illustrating these lessons, and to try the Sustainability Index Tool, explore the Sustainability Challenge on Rotary’s website.

By Diana Schoberg (excerpted from a story that originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of The Rotarian)