The Institute of Applied Sciences (IAS) of the University of the South Pacific (USP) has commenced with a new water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) project for Fiji and the Solomon Islands. Titled “The Pacific Community Water Management +”, the three-year project is funded under the Australian government’s WASH Research Awards, as part of the Women for Fund initiative.
The project led by the International Water Centre of Griffith University in collaboration with the IAS and Solomon Islands National University also involves some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
Fiji, comprising more than 300 islands, has a population of around 885,000 people. Of these, about 56% reside in urban areas and 44% reside in rural areas according to the 2017 Census Report. A recent study has shown that in Fiji about 1 in 10 persons lack access to basic water supply and sanitation. A lack of access to clean drinking water, poor sanitation facilities and hygiene practices contribute to water-borne diseases in rural communities. Due to the limited presence of the government and private sector in the rural communities, community-based water management (CBWM) presents the necessary model for rural water services.
Although the Pacific Island governments have invested in providing support towards CBWM, the project will evaluate which types of support provided to the CBWM are effective in varying communities’ contents. These include community governance, engagement and support features that are most aligned with inclusive and integrated SDG6 including WASH, outcomes.
The two-phase project will also evaluate what approaches and tools are sensitive to locate context and improve inclusion. And whether CSOs and governments can use these tools to strengthen these community engagement, support and governance features. It is anticipated that the project completion would result in the development of a diagnostic tool which will be used to guide appropriate selection and use of the community management support tools. These tools will be designed to improve the outcomes of government and NCO support of community water management.
The Project and IAS researchers will be working closely with actors and all levels to ensure the research builds on experiences and produces outputs ready for use by CSOs and government stakeholders. Dr Johann Poinapen, the IAS Director stated that “the Institute of Applied Sciences’ involvement in the project is reflective of the Institute’s goal in working collaboratively with stakeholders to improve the livelihood of people in Fiji and the region”.