Almost half of humanity, mostly in Asia and Africa, still live in rural areas and are of low income groups. The poor rural population lack access to basic water supply (900 million) and safe sanitation, which result not only in tremendous human health and economic costs but also create gender and other societal inequalities The majority of rural population in the developing world are illiterate, unskilled and is composed of mainly elderly people, women and children, who do not have resources to support/cope with natural variability and its impacts.
Water supply and sanitation support in rural areas is more challenging due to the settlements location mostly in environmentally fragile areas; development models dominated by diverse cultural values, poor economic condition, and associated cost recovery challenges. In many cases, scattered settlements, dominated by agro-based economy and limited water resources give rise to challenges for infrastructure provision. Most of the existing water infrastructure is decentralized systems (e.g. community water collection point, public stand post, pit latrines and septic tanks in some cases). Such infrastructure systems have also fallen into disrepair due to technical, financial and managerial limitations. Rural population often depend on local water sources (wells, hand pumps, river), which are in many cases contaminated
The rural people lack access to appropriate, low-cost and locally produced technology for water, sanitation and hygiene needs. The advanced and urban focused technologies will not fit for the rural case. The technologies should also take into account other issues, such as energy efficient and uses of natural treatment systems, which are robust and low cost. The technology should also address the cultural values of rural people in developing countries. The model of public participation in development could be different, to be compatible with local traditions (such as involvement of the elderly, ethnic and community chiefs) while developing water and sanitation technologies in rural areas.
The overall aim of this focal area is to support the development of an integrated development strategy for ensuring sustainable water security and sanitation in rural area settlements. It consists of four suggested activities as presented below.
- Identify appropriate awareness raising programme for water security and safe sanitation that are suitable for the illiterate rural population (where the majority of the population are dominated by elderly people, women and children) and identify public participation approaches that take into account the construct of the communities, which are strongly influenced by their ethnic, cultural and religious beliefs.
- Identify appropriate technology for agriculture, water and sanitation services that can be accepted, developed, operated and maintained by the local rural people, who often lack education/capacity and resources.
- Propose a new business model of infrastructure development and investment specifically for the rural poor that ensures the sustainable infrastructure development and operation (e.g. centralized subsidy model versus PPP model or any modification of them), and infrastructure development strategies that reconcile the conflicting domestic and agricultural water demand and efficient use and reuse of resources (e.g. Multiple Use Services -MUS- approach).
- Study on new institutional framework that can address the issues of rural area in an integrated approach and identify enabling institutional and governance structures (e.g. institution, decentralization and devolution, level of participation of NGOs’ and community organization, policies and regulation, cost recovery and subsidies).