Independent evaluation of WellFound’s work

As we approach the end of the current programme of work funded by the UK Government International Development Budget, an independent management consultant travelled to Guinea-Bissau in January 2017 to assess the effectiveness of the work.

Below, her executive summary is reproduced in full. To discuss the complete report, please contact us.

We are delighted that the evidence shows we have been able to help over 35,000 people in rural Guinea-Bissau over the past three years by improving access to safe water and sanitation.

The executive summary reads:

WellFound’s current work in fifteen rural communities in Guinea Bissau is supported by a thirty-six month grant of £212,992 from DFID’s Global Poverty Action Fund (GPAF). The project aims to improve access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, gender equality, community economic activities and food security through introducing pumps, latrines and market gardens, accompanied by capacity building to establish a sustainable community management framework. A Bissau-based team of seven project workers coordinates project implementation, in collaboration with agricultural graduates, partner NGOs, private contractors and the government Natural Resources Department. DFID funding is supplemented by funds raised by WellFound with the objective of handing over project initiatives after three years, to communities well able to manage these themselves.

This evaluation examines the impact of the project as a whole in the communities concerned and looks at project design, management and value for money. It was carried out by an independent consultant who met with the project team and visited 11 of the project communities and several project partners in January 2017.

WellFound selected 15 communities in two areas on the mainland and in the Bijagos islands and designed the project based on experience and local conditions, taking advice from local organisations and the communities concerned. Many of the chosen communities are remote and located outside the areas where most NGOs choose to work, which presents a number of challenges in relation to access, cost, time and working conditions. The project has provided the first access to clean drinking water in most communities and few had any previous experience of latrines. In the islands women had not grown vegetables before and market gardens have led to improved nutrition and income and provided a focal point for social interaction and organisation. Project design is being continuously updated in the light of new knowledge, experience and opportunities, as demonstrated by the recent introduction of the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach promoted by the government of Guinea Bissau, which the team recognised as a viable innovation to its work. Alternative latrine designs and a solar powered pump are also currently being tested. Agricultural graduates from a local vocational training centre are employed to support the island gardens and local youth are trained in pump maintenance and latrine construction at another vocational school, thus making use of existing local resources.

Two and a half years into the project, monitoring data show that most of the project targets have been met and many significantly surpassed. During the evaluation visits, men and women explained the impact of the project on their lives. This was particularly profound in the more remote communities, both on the mainland and in the islands. The vast majority now use clean drinking water from the new pumps. Many use the latrines and numbers will no doubt increase with the introduction of the CLTS approach, with family as opposed to community facilities. There is a broad understanding of the dangers of open defecation and appropriate hygiene precautions, drinking water now being stored in covered containers. In line with project monitoring data, women consistently reported significant reductions in illness in their families. Vegetables from the gardens are supplementing diets and income, with the potential to develop further sales opportunities with island hotels. Two funds are regularly collected in most villages, one by the women to cover ongoing costs of the gardens and the other by a wider community committee to cover pump and latrine maintenance. A community leader in Bumal, on the mainland, explained the impact of the project by saying “Having the pump has completely changed the image of our village” and went on to explain how neighbouring villages now aspire to have a pump and the population has been inspired by the changes to their lives. As a result he and several others have started a community association to work on other aspects of community development.

Project-trained local youth have gained skills to enable them to earn some income and also the prestige and self-respect that come from actively contributing to community improvements. The
agriculture graduates working on the islands are able to put their new skills to good use and gain experience as a result of the project. Several of them spoke of their pride in contributing to national development. A developing partnership with the government’s Natural Resources department and membership of the group of NGOs working on WASH initiatives provide good opportunities for shared learning and integrating project initiatives into the wider development sector. This bodes well for sustainability in that project-trained youth are likely to become part of the Natural Resources departments’ network for pump maintenance.

WellFound’s CEO has described the project as “a steep learning curve” and has identified a number of lessons learned in expanding the work of providing clean water to include market gardens and a broader integrated community development approach. One such lesson is the need for trained community health workers, so in the future WellFound plans to train 2-3 women from each village in public health, first aid and natural remedies. Overall the WellFound team is delivering an effective project, offering good value for money, which is changing lives for the better. Focusing on women and ensuring sustainability is making an important contribution to this very positive impact at community level. Relatively few NGOs choose to work in Guinea Bissau and even fewer in the more remote locations where WellFound operates. For a small organisation this is particularly challenging but WellFound tackles this through flexibility and an experimental approach, developing activities as needs become apparent and opportunities arise. Such integrated community development initiatives can, given the necessary resources, spread organically from one community to another and this will be facilitated by Wellfound’s intention to focus intervention in neighbouring communities in the future. The ability to identify and integrate local partners and demonstrate the possibilities for working in the islands makes Wellfound a responsible pioneer organisation, creating norms to guide future development practice on the islands. Training and mentoring offered to staff from diverse backgrounds serves to increase the social capital of the country’s development sector.

The project has a strong emphasis on sustainability, working closely with communities to ensure that they will be able to maintain the new infrastructure after WellFound officially hands it over. The evaluation led to several recommendations to further enhance this, namely:

  1. To reinforce the practice of seed-saving in project gardens to ensure that women have ongoing affordable access seeds;
  2. To reinforce use of the training provided in preserving vegetables so that women can use
    vegetables in their family diets for a longer period, reduce waste and develop new marketing possibilities;
  3. To help women to take full ownership of their fund and ensure its security through group members being aware of the amount of money available and involved in decisions to spend money;

A further suggestion is to build on the team’s knowledge of participatory tools through Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) training to introduce tools and techniques for participatory community assessments and base line studies, and also for participatory monitoring and evaluation. This would enable communities to monitor changes brought about by their activities and contribute to project data. PRA tools can also be used to explore gender roles and share learning across communities.

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