Gender, Social Class and Access to Water resources in North West Region

Gender, Social Class and Access to Water resources in North West Region

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Conflicts over land and water resources have been on the rise during the past ten years in the North West Region. In the municipalities of Ndu and Kumbo, conflicts have arisen over the encroachment by some inhabitants into water catchment areas under protection. SNV set in to develop together with Ndu and Kumbo Councils better approaches for effective and efficient use of water and land resource.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The access to water and land by both households and agriculture may then be highly differentiated by financial means and other social divisions. Landlords and influential households have preferential conditions of access, and different sources of water, compared to those of poor households. The quality, reliability and cost of water and land for a particular household will be influenced by a range of characteristics including conditions of the water source, geographic location of the household in relation to the water source, past social investments in water infrastructure, and the social, economic, and even political position of a household.Question arise how did gender relations and financial inequalities intersect to influence the social uses of water and its outcomes? Poor women may be doubly disadvantaged for access to land and water: first by the household’s weak grasp on financial resources and second by the low priority given to women’s work, knowledge, and responsibilities. There is gender conflict over land and water, gender inequalities in controlling theses resources. Access to land and water has been shown primarily through ownership or common property.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The status of Ndu Water Authority (NWA) and Kumbo Water Authority (KWA) were revised, wherein their respective councils effectively played the role of direct supervisory body of the water schemes. As a result of this , (i) in 2008, Kumbo council developed a project which funded the implementation of a dialogue and negotiation process with all the stakeholders involved in the watershed, but specifically with people of Yeh watershed and landlords.(ii) Various agreements have been signed to facilitate and enable the process of conflict mitigation to continue. (iii)A plan of action covering the period of 2008 to 2010 was elaborated, with one of the greatest outcome which was the creation in August 2008 of the Watershed Women Famers Union called (WWF)-Yeh Union which involves all women who are farming inside Kumbo watershed. The responsibility of WWF-Yeh Union is to coordinate efforts of women farming groups, ensure that they are not farming around water sources, sensitize them to stop bathing and washing clothes directly in the streams and finally, ensure that there is increased production of crops in the watershed. To reinforce this initiative, other committees were put in place like the Yeh Watershed Caretakers and the Management Committee of Yeh People’s. However, conflict arose when some of these women frequently encroached and used chemical fertilizer around the spring and the stream source inside the protected zone.Talking about conflicts over land and water resources due to encroachment in water catchment areas and non respect of law protecting them is to reductionist. However, if we are talking about access to safe drinking water to the poor, then first of all, we need to analyse the different modes of access to land and water in these areas and secondly point out different practices contributing to marginalized poor people from getting access to potable water. Although SNV approach is used to improve the gender relationship among different stakeholders.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The two councils and water authorities faced major challenges that affect development and management of their water catchment areas effectively and in a sustainable manner. By using adequate approaches and systems for management and protection of their respective water catchment areas, many changes in attitude have been observed: (i) They are able to facilitated contradictory debate and deal with various stakeholders, preserving sustainable access to land and water to various groups. (ii) By reducing the unit price of water at public stand taps, the water authorities are more sensitive of pro-poor pricing advice coming from SNV, to increase the access of water to the majority of the population. (iii) By organising women in groups and training them, increasing their representativeness up to 50 % in quarter representatives and water committees, the water authorities tackle the issue of gender inequalities but also found the best way to mitigate conflicts and share responsibilities to protect the water catchment areas. (iv) Appropriate, reliable and accessible water resources information and dissemination improved cooperation amongst end users and water authorities.
About You
Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV)
Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name


Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV)

Organization Phone


Organization Address

PO. BOX 5069 Bamenda

Organization Country


How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on
Do you have a patent for this idea?



Capacity building with regard to dialogue improvement, law dissemination and water policy development has been carried out behind this situation to improve the access of women to safe drinking water. These approaches were used to improve the situation:
a. Firstly: raise gender awareness at the level of various stakeholders, water authority and council by sensitizing and training on information flow and group dynamics,
b. Secondly: increase the number of their representatives in different quarter and water management committees or structures to let them better express their needs and interest,
c. Thirdly: develop an integrated water resources policy and strategy taking into account gender and minorities inequalities, mostly by involving them in various workshops but equally steering committees,
d. Fourthly: empower women’s capacity to improve their leadership skills and cope with the current situation of inequalities.
Capacity building at council level
The situations of unequal access to water within the municipalities have been seen at global level, from politics to stakeholders involved in water management system.


- NWA and KWA increased the number of women inside their quarter representatives and respective Boards (30 to 50 %).
- NWA and KWA with the support of their various councils developed projects to create, train and organize public stand taps committees.
- KWA has regular meeting with the group of women to improve dialogue and build confidence.
- It is clear that Kumbo watershed project, by putting in place a Watershed Women Farmers committee, contributed to improve their practical living conditions by trainings organized in organic manure farming systems.
- Inside the watershed, women are really farming without fear to pollute water sources, although they did not have any control over land and water.

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$50 - 100

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


If so, how?

By disseminating the law, the council tackle the lapses of local administration in law implementation and the lack of awareness of water structures on the rampant water pollution. In addition, Gender gap (women not involved in the planning and implementation of water projects): women, who are particularly responsible for ensuring that potable water is fetched, used for cooking, available for laundry, cleaning, bathing are excluded from decision making on a resource that plays a vital role in their key daily activities. The human resource potentials of the communities are therefore not fully utilised with the limitation of the participation of women.
Finally, the councils and water authorities provided fund and human resources to sustain dialogue and negotiation are fundamental inside water catchment area because it has increased public and contradictory debates, bringing reliable source of information to end users. Debates can also tackle issues of reducing inequalities in different mode of access to water and land.
SNV action increased gender awareness at the level of water authorities, and direct discussion with women groups have been seen as leverage in this conflict mitigation.
By focusing on improving the practical needs of women (training on organic farming system, soil erosion, declining soil fertility, poor harvest of food crops and tubers, animals, insect, pests, fungi attack crops) in the water authorities created interest for dialogue and also opened a way to discuss sustainability of the water sources. This step opens the room for women to take more responsibilities by improving willingness to change their habits of farming with manure instead of fertilizer.
Sustainable women group activities around the catchment area is the best way to protect those water catchment areas, because they are at the base of educating children at household level.

What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with government?

Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation.

SNV worked closely with partners and consultants involved in water sector in capacity-building, ownership of water schemes by the beneficiaries and sustainable water management through better organization of water management committee, water authorities,councils and end users. By using local, partner’s expertise to duplicate tools and approaches developed its lead to wider impact. SNV had also initiated learning alliance processes, identified and mobilized relevant stakeholders, provided methodological guidance and overview, weaved activities together in a flexible and context-specific manner to form a robust methodology, ensured the participation and empowerment of all relevant stakeholders, provided tools for water management, designed and monitored the quality of the content of assignment agreement implementation for the benefit of the communities, at divisional, regional and national level.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

By core subsidy of the Netherlands Development Organisation.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

Since 2008, SNV Cameroon has been working in the North West Region on the question of safe drinking water. The engagement of the SNV in the North West Region begins with a situation analysis in the management of water supply systems.
The study amongst other issues identified the following issues to be addressed:
- The need for the scheme to move from effective management to efficient management;
- The need to educate and sensitize the population on the cost of producing water and the importance of treated water;
- To work towards minimizing water loss resulting from maintenance lapses;
- To enhance inclusion in management and ownership.

From the study, different points of interest identified and deepening has been done. Tools on operation and maintenance, billing system, information flow, gender mainstreaming and water governance have been developed from proven experiences at the base that have been shared upward on water quality improvement. Experience has shown that operating and maintaining water supply schemes in an inclusive manner is where the concept of local ownership felt. Quality guaranteed and long term self sustainability assured are major issues that owners and managers of most water schemes must find a break through solution.
This initiative took place at the regional water platform level of the North West Region of Cameroon. Stakeholders took the opportunity to hold a round table in March 2008 in Bamenda on “How to improve water quality in the North West Region”. A regional water platform and a steering committee of 10 have been put in place to give adequate response to the issue of water quality improvement. An action plan was developed, which was declined in a project. In his pilot phase, the project area was selected based on: (i) low access rates to water treatment; (ii) the existence of integrated water policy and strategy at council level; (iii) priority given to water supply at council level; (iv) availability of baseline studies and finally (v) existence of water management committee in rural community. The project aim to contribute to the government’s target, as stipulated in the Growth and Employment Strategy Paper (GESP), to raise the access rate for drinking water from 45% to 80% in 2015 and for sanitation from 13.5% to 60%. The project intended to raise the drinking water access rate from 33% currently to 50% in 2015 and the sanitation access rate from 17% on average to 20% in 2015 within the project area. It is also expected to generate a change of attitude and behaviour with respect to hygiene and health, within the beneficiary community, and the average prevalence rate for diseases associated with the lack of safe water and sanitation will decline from 19% to 15%- during this period.

Tell us about the social innovator—the person—behind this idea.

With close to 25 years of professional experience, I acquired skills in advisory in multiple areas: Gender, Socio economy and Natural Resources. Since 2008, I have intervened in the field of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, and Domestic Biogas. I really want to assert my expertise in these sectors, which fascinates me.
Senior Advisor Water , Sanitation and Hygiene, and Biogas / North West Region
SNV, Bamenda
Dutch development organization in 32 countries all over the world. Since 1963 in Cameroon in Public Health, Safe drinking water, Pastoral livestock, Forestry, Biogas

 Participation to the strategic reflexion in the WASH sector
 Coaching 10 clients : communes and water management comity (to 5 000 subscribers/ budget : FCFA 65 millions): capacity building, relevant skills in strategic planning, organisational and institutional development, governance and gender mainstreaming
 Coaching 4 advisors and 3 consultants: diagnostic, proper use of tools, pertinent written communication, data base collection and set-up
 Monitoring and evaluation of meso level organisations
 Implementing the National Biogas Programme in the North West Region

 After a simulation, we realized a loss of FCFA 50 million in 5 years due to non payment of invoice by local Government structures in Kumbo Council. Lobbying actions with Kumbo Water Authority and relevant stakeholders push the local administration to start making provision for their water bill payment. By improving their internal resource mobilisation, the water authority is able to build more public stand taps for poor people in Kumbo municipality
 Lowering the price of water: 1 m3 155 FCFA to 100 F in Kumbo Council
 Facilitated tools development for better data collection, financing and budgeting system for Kumbo and Ndu water authorities in the North West Region of Cameroon, September 2009
 Facilitated tools development to improve governance and water management scheme on Management of Information System (MIS) and Plan for Maintenance system
 Facilitated the elaboration of an “integrated water resource management policy and strategy, action plan and bylaws” at council level
 Facilitated the set-up of one regional and two municipal water dialogue platforms in Ndu , Kumbo and the one of the North West region of Cameroon
 Supervised two local capacity builders to supervise the construction of 80 bio digesters in the North West Region

July 2003 - July 2008 (5 years)
Senior Advisor Gender, institutional development and natural resources management SNV, Far North Portfolio, Maroua, Cameroon

 Expertise Leader in Co-management of natural resources in Dry Land Management (2006)
 Advisory in cross cutting issues of gender, governance, sustainability and revenue generation activities for women: strategic planning, organisational and institutional development, training
 Networking with organisations (NGOs, councils, training structures, women’s organisation)

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Personal contact at Changemakers

If through another source, please provide the information.

Approximately 50 words left (400 characters).

Which (if any) of the following strategies apply to your organization or company (check as many as apply)

Legal education and awareness, Developing/applying technology for surveying, mapping and documenting property rights.

Please explain how your work furthers one or many of the above strategies (if you selected “other”, please explain your strategy)

The Netherlands Development Organisation-SNV has been involved in capacity development of local actors in the water and sanitation since 2000. During this period several approaches and products in water governance have been developed by a pool of experienced advisors and local implementation partners.