Sustainable Development Success Stories

Water-Supply in Rural Areas: Feedback from experiments in 90 villages in Mauritania

Location  90 villages in the Hodhs, Mauritania.
Responsible Organisation Executed by UN-Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA); funded by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

In the past, drinking water was supplied by unsustainable and poorly maintained, hand-pumps installed years ago in this remote area of Mauritania. Maintenance was supposed to be provided by the administration in Nouakchott, but there was access neither to spare parts nor to repairpersons. Consequently, populations drank unsafe water from polluted traditional wells.

The aim of the project was to make the local population responsible for the management of its own water point and to secure an appropriate technical and commercial environment. The objectives included:

  • The creation of a private network for selling spare parts, fostering links between production/importer/regional traders/ local distribution;

  • The creation of a water-point committee in each village that would take responsibility for the management and cost of pump maintenance and for sanitation around the water point;

  • The training of local private repairpersons.

Issues Addressed Capacity building at local level.
Results Achieved At the end of the assistance period, more than 90% of the villages were autonomously funding the maintenance of their pumps, with trained help from the local private sector (repairpersons, spare parts traders, etc.).
Lessons Learned
  • Remoteness of villages and access problems in semi-desert areas can be overcome by basing the work on local branches;

  • Train all the workers in the water sector, and produce a manual to prevent misunderstanding of the working method;

  • Presence in the field, transparency and dissemination of the reports;

  • For the pump spare parts, rely on an existing commercial distribution network familiar to the local population; make the price of each spare part publicly known; analyse the technical, human and financial context clearly before setting up such a network.

  • Have sufficient funds available for the participatory approach, so as to involve users in taking charge of the equipment on a sustainable basis: any new project should add at least 20% of the cost of the physical investments for funding these measures.

  • The time required for apprenticeships and changes in behaviour is an incontrovertible factor. The duration and continuity of support projects must be adapted to the context, which must therefore be well known, (the current approach is guided more by the supply end).

  • The exploitation of groundwater resources for new uses (small-scale irrigation, for example) requires sufficient prior knowledge of the aquifers that are to be exploited.


UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Two UN Plaza
New York NY 10017 USA
E-mail: esa@un.org and dengo@un.org
Web: http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev