Water and sanitation for rural areas and small towns

Project description

Title: Sustainable development of the water and sanitation sector in Mali
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Mali
Lead executing agency: Ministère de l’Energie et de l‘Eau
Overall term: 2015 to 2019

Woman operating a tap in the Kayes region. © GIZ / Simone Schnabel


The insufficient supply of safe drinking water and inadequate access to basic sanitation services are key constraints to development in Mali. Just 63 per cent of the rural population has access to safe drinking water, while basic sanitation facilities such as latrines are available to a mere 22 per cent. The comprehensive development and professional operation of infrastructure, such as pipe-based water supply systems with elevated tanks and public standpipes, as well as transparent regulation are yet to be established.

The country’s 703 municipalities have been responsible for drinking water supply and sanitation since 2002, but do not yet perform these tasks satisfactorily. Local and regional specialist authorities are not providing the professional support required. Democratic accountability, transparency and civil society participation in the water sector are weak. The responsible actors are not in a position to guarantee sustainable drinking water supply and basic sanitation services throughout the country.

No effective mechanisms are in place to mobilise and carry out investments in the interests of a significant expansion of services. Tariffs and transfer services must be designed to enhance efficiency and economic sustainability in the operation of infrastructure. Municipalities and operators – 85 per cent water user groups and 15 per cent private service providers – are considered creditworthy to only a restricted extent. Municipalities work in isolation to mobilise funds. Intermunicipal associations and cooperative structures that might assume this task have not been set up to date.

Accredited private sector auditors perform control and regulatory duties at present. This system has functional deficiencies and is neither sustainable nationwide nor attractive to the private sector because of the unprofitable conditions. Operators have limited technical and business expertise. The availability of maintenance and repair services and provision of spare parts are inadequate. The sanitation sector does not yet have a database that might serve as the basis for planning investments or reporting. The drinking water database is outdated and does not make disaggregated data available.


The capacity of the responsible sectoral authorities, regional bodies and operators to provide nationwide water and sanitation services has improved. Poor people living in rural areas and small towns have significantly better access to safe drinking water and appropriate sanitation.


The project works with the ministries responsible for water and the environment and respective sectoral authorities at local, regional and national level. Other key partners include regional bodies, operators and accredited auditors.

An improvement in relations between the state and society by making public procurement and resource allocation more transparent and making policy citizen-centred helps to strengthen the people’s trust in municipalities as key stakeholders in consolidating peace. Democratic accountability is reinforced by reducing corruption, by strengthening relationships between the state and society or improving public services, and by making investments more sustainable. Increased access to basic services will help to stabilise regions in the medium term.

The project pilots strategies and implementation plans in three regions. It combines strategic advice on sanitation and plan development with the implementation of pilot measures in municipalities. These measures involve the building of different types of latrines, the provision of technical equipment and training on how to empty latrines, as well as marketing and incentive mechanisms. The plans and standards derived from these activities pave the way for subsequent investments by KfW Development Bank in further expanding services. The findings from implementation are used as a basis for reference at national level and formulated as standards for broad-based implementation.

The consulting firm GFA supports the implementation of the project and trains operators.


With support from the project, a standard service agreement was developed for operating water infrastructure. The National Water Directorate intends to introduce this agreement throughout the country.

A strategy for cooperation between municipalities has been developed. It increases the broad-based impact of water supply and sanitation measures. The number of municipalities to receive support is increasing from 12 to 38.

Training 20 trainers in the project regions is achieving multiplier effects. In 130 operator committees training activities are taking place with the assistance of the trainers on the ground.

Tender documents for recruiting new service providers to perform a nationwide technical and financial audit were revised on behalf of the ministries. Operation is improving thanks to regular support.

A competition where women could submit ideas in connection with water quality was held. The winners received mobile instruments to treat and disinfect water.

Water tower in Siby in the Koulikoro region. © GIZ / Simone Schnabel

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