Rotary-USAID Ghana WASH partnership - Theophilus Mensah

Financial projections with decision makers should be conducted early

Life-cycle costing with decision makers of communities, schools, and healthcare facilities should be conducted at the front end of engagement.

Read More
Rotary-USAID Ghana WASH partnership - dilapidated toilet

Consider the whole community when planning for school WASH programs

Schools are embedded in a community; it is difficult to address the WASH needs of the school in isolation from the rest of the community.

Read More
USAID - 20160823

A partnership between two large, complex organizations takes time and effort

A truly integrated approach between two decentralized, global organizations with different cultures such as Rotary and USAID is not automatic.

Read More


Through close collaboration over more than a decade, the Rotary-USAID partnership has learned technical and logistical lessons in WASH program implementation. We are documenting, sharing, and applying these lessons learned— some specific to certain countries and others more global—in the program as we work.

Select program sites where Rotary and USAID are already present

Local community outreach by Rotary clubs and the presence of USAID Mission implementation partners who are already engaged in communities facilitates the set-up of WASH programs on the ground.

Distance from a site to a Rotary club impacts participation and success

The greater the distance a project site is from a Rotary club, the fewer the visits that are likely to happen. Longer distances reduce monitoring and engagement opportunities between Rotary volunteers, implementation partners and the community receiving the systems, impacting the success of a program.

Select schools where leadership is strong and needs are prioritized

In Ghana, we learned the importance of working with schools that have committed headmasters who understand the importance of WASH. Communities where school administrators have already prioritized what their school needs are more likely to benefit from our investment.

Investing in volunteer training and skills is continuous

Capacity and skill-building for volunteers is an ongoing effort that should be done through both training and practical experience. Such training, done with USAID Missions, elevates how volunteers collaborate alongside USAID and brings a level of consistency and quality to the partnership.

Effective advocacy is directly related to capacity building of volunteers

Building the capacity of volunteers helps them become better at monitoring, evaluation, resolution, learning, and adaptation efforts, skills that are critical for success in the Rotary-USAID partnership and essential to ensure the collection of quality data from program sites.

Involve governments in program design early

Working early and effectively with local, regional, and national governments results in a greater likelihood of ownership and engagement throughout and after the program. Effective collaboration with local government means identifying capacity and resource gaps as well as assets. Working effectively on hardware (i.e., pump mechanics, construction) and software (school hygiene trainings, community outreach practices) aspects of WASH is key for effective collaboration and maximization of resources.

Prioritize financing of hand pump usage fees early

The partnership learned that end-users do not consistently pay the fees for water from hand pumps that cover operation and maintenance costs. A community water and sanitation (WATSAN) committee's ability to collect sufficient usage fees is a key driver in the long-term functionality of community hand pumps. Even if they were collected consistently, these tariffs are often insufficient to meet total costs, so WATSAN committees need to plan ahead. Having a discussion with the community at the front end about how hand pump services are financed is a priority.

Mechanized or reticulated systems are a better fit where other improved water sources exist

Different water point locations will require different pump technology. In areas with other improved water sources available—peri-urban areas, small towns, and rural growth centers—invest in mechanized or reticulated systems. These systems provide better value and higher service levels than handpumps. They are also significantly better managed by the community, particularly where district government support is limited. Hand pumps are the choice for communities where no other improved water source exists, such as in rural areas.

Policy advocacy, an important tool in sustainability, is a priority in WASH programming

Policy advocacy is working with governments to ensure that they secure resources and prioritize improved WASH services. When integrated into WASH programming, policy advocacy strengthens WASH systems and improves the likelihood of their effectiveness and sustainability by helping address the root causes for lack of access to sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene services.

Hygiene promoters are more effective with local government support

Community- and school-based hygiene promoters are more effective and maintain their roles and responsibilities when they get support and monitoring assistance from the local government. In Ghana, teachers act as school health promoters, and bear a large responsibility for successfully coordinating and implementing Ghana’s School Health Education Programme alongside other educational priorities. We have learned that without support from headmasters and district educational coordinators and an accountability mechanism, teachers are less likely to be successful in integrating hygiene messaging, lessons, and school health clubs into daily school activities.

Local demand for services drives our partnership goals and priorities

In a demand-driven approach to development, communities and institutions receive services they want and for which they are willing to pay. The community, rather than the development agency or the outside organization, directs what implementers will ultimately do. Donors organizations, like USAID and Rotary, influence how money will be invested and help ensure that implementers take certain approaches to the work that was prioritized by the community.
Strong local leadership and demand for improved services informs the partnership’s future investments, catalyzes implementation, and fosters sustainability. For example, in Ghana, the partnership approached district governments, asking them to propose their greatest WASH needs and explain why programming should be allocated to their district. Communities that didn’t propose anything or provided inadequate proposals were not considered, as they were seen as less likely to benefit from the partnership’s investment.

Ghana’s district assemblies (DAs) frequently do not have the required resources for core WASH services

One of the lessons we have learned in Ghana is that its DAs lack the required financial and human resources to adequately perform core responsibilities, such as monitoring and support for water and sanitation management teams (WSMTs). In many instances, WSMTs are left to their own devices. For example, without DA support, WSMTs may not receive refresher training or review the collection of service fees. Close fee monitoring is essential so that WSMTs can purchase spare parts or hire an area mechanic when the system goes down. This lack of resources has a significant impact on a WSMT’s ability to manage hand pumps, and is often reflected in the increased non-functionality rates of WASH systems.


In addition to learning best practices for management, we are getting better at leveraging the strengths of each partner and collaborating more effectively at the strategic level, which makes our work more effective, efficient, and sustainable.

Consistent, long-term participation of Rotary volunteers is crucial

Secure a three- to five-year commitment from Rotary volunteers for participation in the Rotary-USAID partnership. Throughout the duration of a RI-USAID program and after, Rotary members play a critical role in the success of the partnership. Seen as local and national leaders in the communities where we work, Rotary members have a long-term personal investment in their society and nation. They are crucial in building trust and fostering community self-reliance in our programs.

For effective collaboration, each partner must understand the other’s role as well as their own

To effectively collaborate, Rotary and USAID Missions must take the time to understand each other’s contributions. For example, Rotary brings an engaged volunteer network and culture, and USAID has technical expertise and a vigorous approach to development. The expectations and professional culture of USAID with its deadlines, levels of organization, accountability, and methods of operation, differ from those of Rotary, a volunteer organization. Gaining a better understanding of each organization’s work culture, capacity, networks, and skills is a critical early step that helps the two partners work together to deliver for impact.

Rotary’s greatest asset in the partnership is grassroots advocacy

The greatest added value Rotary members bring to the partnership is their grassroots influence as local WASH advocates. When Rotary focuses on this strength, overall programming is enhanced and the partnership benefits. Rotary’s extensive professional and personal network helps us reach the local decision makers who mobilize resources to reach national goals.

To fully integrate, partners should avoid parallel activities and duplicated efforts

A truly integrated approach to WASH work requires that each partner avoid doing parallel activities and duplicating efforts. The partnership between Rotary and USAID requires integration at all levels: planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. Program design and reporting should also reflect the joint output and outcomes of the partnership, not of the individual partners. Full integration helps bolster and leverage resources, skills, and knowledge, expanding what we can do together.

Hire a program manager on behalf of the partnership

Hire a program manager and professional management staff to manage volunteer roles and coordinate joint activities alongside USAID Mission and their implementation partner(s).

Be ready to learn – and sometimes fail

A culture of learning is needed by all parties: Rotary clubs, USAID Missions, and implementation partners. Being open to making mistakes and comfortable with failure helps partners and stakeholders stay flexible as projects grow and improve.

© 2021 Rotary International. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy Terms of Use
© 2021 Rotary International. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy Terms of Use