A Tale of Two CDs: Capacity Development and Community Development in the Waste, Water and Sanitation Sector in Kiribati

Uentabo Mackenzie

A 1993 Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID)–funded study reported that water and sanitation problems in South Tarawa, Kiribati had become critical and needed to be addressed in “as comprehensive a manner as possible.” This led to a series of interventions including several Asian Development Bank (ADB)–sponsored projects which focused on the community participation component that the Government of Kiribati had come to recognize as key to sustainability. The case study highlights the second of these projects—a positive example of country-led networking and coalition building that demonstrates the potential for harnessing capacity of multiple actors with shared interests.

The two projects—Community Development and Participation Initiatives (CDPI) and Community Development and Sustainable Participation (CDSP)—were part of a two-pronged response to the need for complementary initiatives to support the $10.24 million Sanitation, Public Health, and Environment Improvement (SAPHE) Project, emphasizing areas where earlier projects had failed. While a technical assistance on Management and Financial Advisory Services for Restructuring the Public Utilities Board (PUB) addressed the capacity of PUB by strengthening its management, financial systems, as well as technical and staff capacities, CDPI and CDSP focused on community development, which was seen as critical to the success and sustainability of the SAPHE Project. Through the two community development initiatives, the Government of Kiribati developed a partnership with nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and civil society to mobilize community support and contribute to a more enabling environment for the SAPHE Project.

SAPHE and CDSP project personnel worked together very effectively. With its expertise in community development and participation, CDSP assisted SAPHE in negotiations with the community on several occasions, “such as in Bikenibeu in mid-2003 when the community opposed the excavation of trenches by Dai Nippon for the sewer network.” 

CDPI and CDSP also facilitated a partnership among government ministries, statutory bodies, urban councils, and NGOs, while encouraging program-to-program interaction, which contributed to the efficiency and effectiveness of individual and shared activities. As noted, both projects contributed to “the development of a strong network of NGOs and government agencies that are working towards facilitating real change in South Tarawa and Kiribati generally.”

Through CDSP, the external consultant mentored local partners and strengthened their capacity to carry out most of the work themselves, building on the network created by the CDPI. In turn, working relationships and partnerships consolidated through CDSP provided a foundation that can be drawn upon by the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development among others, as it continues to address relevant issues.

Ironically, FSPK, the main partner NGO that housed two of the projects that CDSP networked with, and PUB, the executing agency in the area of solid wastes disposal and water, were both facing administrative difficulties; they lacked the capacity to provide the support required by CDSP. However, thanks to the Kiribati Te Boboto coalition, CDSP was able to take its message to the community and contribute to building the capacity of households, community groups, and partner projects, and thus contribute to sector-wide change.

In conclusion, the two projects significantly heightened awareness of issues relating to waste and how it can affect the quality of drinking water and ultimately people’s health. Quantitatively, their achievements can be measured in terms of the number of people and groups involved in community workshops/consultations, number of households practicing the banana circle, and volume of recyclable wastes received by Kaoki Mange’s recycling depots. These can be taken as measures of increased community capacity in the area of waste management. Qualitatively, the project gradually—yet noticeably—shifted people’s attitudes and behavior. It is fair to say that the community is now increasingly aware and is gradually taking ownership of environmental health issues, and that these changes are largely attributable to the “two CDs”—capacity development of government actors and community development efforts at various levels within the beneficiary communities.

The CDSP story is indeed “a tale of two CDs;” it demonstrated the important relationship between capacity development and community development, notably in interventions that involve the government working in tandem with communities and civil society groups to implement reforms while building and broadening foundations for sustainable change.

Year of publication: 
ADB Capacity Development in the Pacific
Themes and sectors: 
Themes and sectors: 
Water supply
Case story length: 
48 pages

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