Conversations with Collaboration Champions, Episode 2: Perpetue Kamuyumbu, Country Director, Water For People Rwanda

Conversations with Collaboration Champions, Episode 2: Perpetue Kamuyumbu, Country Director, Water For People Rwanda

Conversations with Collaboration Champions, Episode 2: Perpetue Kamuyumbu, Country Director, Water For People Rwanda 676 508 Agenda for Change

Welcome to our podcast focusing on collaboration and collective action in the global WASH sector. This image shows a portrait of our second guest, Perpetue Kamuyumbu.

Conversations with Collaboration Champions is a new podcast series from Agenda for Change, focused on sharing stories, events, and resources that highlight collaborative approaches to WASH systems strengthening. The podcast is hosted by Alec Shannon, Deputy Coordinator of Agenda for Change. Check back regularly for more episodes! 


About Perpetue

Perpetue Kamuyumbu is an experienced leader and policy and advocacy advisor who has been heavily invested in supporting local governments in the Rwandan water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector for over 20 years. Perpetue joined Water For People in November 2008 as Senior Program Manager and has been serving as Country Director since July 2010. She is responsible for the overall coordination of country program interventions with a focus on the four districts of intervention and particularly works with national WASH stakeholders to push the WASH sector agenda towards universal and sustainable access to WASH services. Prior to Water For People, Perpetue worked for the Ministry of Infrastructure (formerly Ministry of Public Works and Energy), and several international nonprofit organizations (INGOs).


Episode Highlights 

  • Water For People is collaborating with local and national governments, development banks, and other INGOs to deliver sustainable WASH services in Rwanda, beginning with the Rulindo district in 2010.
  • Since 2010, Rulindo district has achieved almost 100% water infrastructure coverage, over 60% of the households have access to improved sanitation facilities, and almost 97% of schools have access to WASH facilities.
  • Water For People is directly working in four districts (Rulindo, Gicumbi, Kicukiro, and Karongi), and is also additionally supporting five districts with District-Wide Approach piloting (alongside Agenda for Change members IRC and WaterAid, plus others).
  • Multiple partners came together to support the building of a WASH Monitoring Information System, and now around 70% of the districts have baseline data, which helps governments to plan for universal access to WASH services.


Episode Transcript

ALEC: Alec Shannon, Deputy Coordinator – Agenda for Change
PERPETUE: Perpetue Kamuyumbu, Country Director – Water for People Rwanda

ALEC: Welcome to Episode 2 of Conversations with Collaborations Champions, where we highlight stories, events, and resources, focused on collaborative approaches to WASH systems strengthening. I’m Alec Shannon, Deputy Coordinator of Agenda for Change. Today it is my pleasure to welcome Perpetue Kamuyumbu, Country Director with Water For People Rwanda. In 2010, Rulindo District leadership and Water For People ambitiously agreed to reach everyone [in the district] with safe water and sanitation services and to develop the institutions so these services would last forever. This approach was initially known as the Rulindo Challenge and was later reframed as the District-Wide Approach in May 2016. After modeling the successful approach in Rulindo District, Water For People has continued working together with the local and national government, as well as Agenda for Change Members IRC and WaterAid, and several other WASH colleagues in Rwanda, to pilot the District-Wide Approach across a number of districts in the country, and eventually scale the approach nationwide.

ALEC: Thank you again, Perpetue, for joining us. Before we jump into any questions, tell us about your role and how long you have been working in the WASH sector.

PERPETUE: I’m Perpetue Kamuyumbu, I’m the Country Director for Water For People in Rwanda, and I’ve been in the water sector since 1988, over 20 years now, and with Water For People as Country Director since 2008. So, my role is basically to coordinate all Water For People activities in Rwanda: working with the partners, serving as the liaison between Water For People Rwanda and the Denver office, hosting guests, and working with the various donors and all WASH stakeholders, both at the national level and district level, and even the communities who are in need of the WASH services.

ALEC: Can you tell us a little bit more about the different development partners and government partners that you’re working with in Rwanda?

PERPETUE: We work with the Ministry of Infrastructure, mainly, which is our line ministry in charge of water supply, sanitation, [and] other public works. We also work with the Water and Sanitation Corporation (WASAC) which is a private company owned by the Ministry of Infrastructure. So basically, the implementing body of the Ministry of Infrastructure, when it comes to water supply and sanitation infrastructure and providing support to the districts in terms of WASH service delivery. We also work with other WASH ministries, including the Ministry of Education, which oversees school WASH, the Ministry of Health, which is in charge of hygiene-. related issues. And we work with other government institutions and ministries, including the Ministry of Environment, which is basically in charge of water resources management. So, for all the issues related to water supply, safety, sanitation, and hygiene, those are the key partners we work with. And for Agenda for Change, we work with WaterAid, including all the support that we have been providing to the Ministry of Infrastructure and other districts related to the implementation of the pilots of the District-Wide Approach, and the development of WASH MIS [Monitoring Information System]. Those are the areas that we have been collaborating and providing support to the Ministry and other government partners over the last three years.

ALEC: I spoke with your colleague Bruce [Uwonkunda] back in September [2020], and he told us a bit about how things were starting to be scaled from the original approach in Rulindo. And I saw recently that all the development partners and government working on the Rulindo Challenge achieved 100% water coverage in the district, is that right?

PERPETUE: Yes, that’s right.

ALEC: Which is amazing, congratulations to all of you! Can you talk about the journey towards achieving that incredible goal?

PERPETUE: In May 2010, that’s when the Rulindo District, MINIFRA [Ministry of Infrastructure], and Water For People agreed to work together to bring full access to water and sanitation services to the entire population of Rulindo District. As you can imagine, the journey was really not easy. We had to start from scratch when at that time in 2010, only 29% of the district population had access to clean water. Only 4% had improved latrines in their households, while only 50% of schools and healthcare facilities had access to WASH services. After hard work, of course, the situation has changed drastically, and we are now talking of 99%, almost 100% water infrastructure coverage, and over 90% of people accessing reliable water services in the district of Rulindo. Also over 60% of the households in Rulindo have access to improved sanitation facilities, and close to 97% of schools [now have] access to WASH facilities. That’s sanitation, rainwater harvesting, and piped water into the school premises.

Rulindo’s story is that of a journey of deep transformation, and it really taught us that if universal access to WASH services can be achieved in a remote area, like in Rulindo, it could be achieved anywhere. Of course, there is still a lot to be done to ensure that all the Rulindo Challenge program outputs are sustained. Sustainability is another area that cannot stop immediately at the time you stop building the last infrastructure. It’s a continuous process, which requires engaging the local government (districts), the private sector, to make sure that whatever we have supported putting into place is sustained. The foundation has been built, all the tools that help the districts and the private sector, and all the capacity building has been provided, and there is a plan for sustainability of these WASH facilities that have been constructed and the services that have been put into place.

ALEC: I think Rwanda is a beacon of hope for so many other countries who are working towards Everyone, Forever. I know also the story will continue for Rwanda because you do have, I believe, 24 districts to scale to across the country, right? So Rulindo is the “stage-setter” that you will follow as you move into other districts. Is it six other districts that you’re working in?

PERPETUE: Water For People we are directly working in four districts now, so Rulindo, Gicumbi, Kicukiro, and Karongi – that’s our newest EF [Everyone, Forever] district where we have just started implementing two water supply systems, and we are also supporting [another] four districts with a District-Wide Approach piloting.

With Rulindo’s achievements, it’s now high time to start scaling up the great achievement that we made in Rulindo together with the government. And so other partners are also implementing the same approach that the government has opted for, under the name of the District-Wide Approach, and this is what the Agenda for Change partners have been supporting. So, we have been working in addition to Rulindo, in another four districts. Those are: Nyamagabe, Ngororero, Karongi, [inaudible: and Bugesera]. We wanted to make sure that we pilot in a few districts and influence the duplication of this model in other districts. So, we are glad that all five districts [where District-Wide Approach piloting exists] now have WASH plans, which are being used as tools for fund mobilization by the districts.[1]

ALEC: What was incentivizing you all to come together? What kept you from working more traditionally on your projects separately?

PERPETUE: We had already been working together, hand in hand, with the Ministry of Infrastructure throughout the implementation of the Rulindo Challenge. So, it was very easy to influence others through various meetings. We have what we call the Talking Group meetings. These are meetings that bring together all WASH stakeholders in the WASH sector, in quarterly meetings. And these were an opportunity for us to tell the story about Rulindo, to share the achievements, the tools that we have been we’ve been using. And after all that, when the government revised the policy to adopt the District-Wide Approach, that was much easier now to influence all the things that have to go into [devising] the policy, which everyone now has to adhere to.

And then together with the Agenda for Change partners, IRC and WaterAid, we were able to pilot the District-Wide Approach. There are also other partners who are implementing other activities in their traditional way – sporadic water systems here and there – but then they were able to come and join us on this journey. This is how we were able to bring onboard World Vision in Gicumbi – Gicumbi is one of the EF districts that followed Rulindo and it’s exactly using the same approach we used in Rulindo. So, World Vision was already there, but focusing on a few sectors since it’s an administrative entity and under a district. Now with the WASH plan for the entire district, they were now able to use some of the tools. So, we all meet there in Gicumbi, to discuss priorities, to assess the progress we are making to make a decision, a number of issues. They were also brought on board. They also have a presence in Karongi where we use the same approach.

There is no need to use different approaches now with the policy, which we are supporting, which has given us a good direction that everyone should follow. So, UNICEF came in when we were developing a WASH plan for one of the districts where they have been supporting some water supply system that is in Nyaruguru, and they provided us some money to support that activity.

We also have African Development Bank because we went ahead and also started to look at WASH systems in general, not just water supply systems, and not only the planning phase, but also assessing all the eight building blocks to see where the weaknesses are, where the bottlenecks are, and what are the actions to be taken. That’s how we found out that there are several things that need to change at the national level for the WASH systems to really be fully functional.

That’s why we ended up supporting the government WASH MIS [Monitoring Information System], which has been developed, tested, and now has been used to collect some baseline data in several districts. About 70% of the districts now have baseline data, which really helped the government to have a starting point and then plan properly for universal access to WASH services in each of the districts.

Looking at the key priorities that have been identified during our workshop that analyzed the sector building blocks, we came up with several priorities, including government-organized WASH plans for all the districts in the country, all 27 districts, collecting baseline data for all the districts, supporting the sector coordination at the national level, of course. And other capacity building so that the sector is better prepared to address sustainability challenges across all the building blocks.

ALEC: You mentioned at least three building blocks that you’re working on, including monitoring, planning, and coordination. Are you dividing and conquering according to your different areas of specialization, or are you all working together on each of these building blocks?

PERPETUE: Each of them is supporting several activities. UNICEF is committed to supporting sector finance. World Vision [is] not committed to supporting any particular [building block] but willing to work with the other partners to implement the district WASH plans. They are currently in over 10 districts and providing any other support that the sector requires. Everyone is almost committed to supporting staffing, supporting staff salaries for the secretariat.

ALEC: That’s great!

PERPETUE: We looked at all the building blocks, but again given the limited number of committed stakeholders, but also the financial constraints, we started with a few building blocks. Each year, we shall be evaluating the progress that we shall have while continuing to influence other WASH stakeholders to join us in the implementation of this sector strengthening agenda.

ALEC: I don’t think I told you this earlier, but we’re titling this series of interviews “Conversations with Collaboration Champions,” which of course you are one. I wanted to ask you if you have someone you look up to who inspires you to collaborate with others? Or if there’s some thought you want to leave us with around collaboration and the importance of working together?

PERPETUE: The collaboration with the Ministry, but also the former Mayor of Rulindo, who was a champion during the Rulindo Challenge program, Justus Kangwagye. Justus Kangwagye has really been a champion because without him, I don’t think the Rulindo Challenge would have started because he has pushed hard [for] it, he was the one who had the initial conversation with the former Water For People CEO to get all this set. We had started in Rulindo in a few sectors, so Rulindo has 17 sectors in total, and we had started intervention in only four, so we had no plan really to look at things district-wide by then. Now, Rulindo Challenge is serving as a model [for] all Water For People country programs.

ALEC: Thank you, Perpetue, very much. You shared so much with us, especially your knowledge and experience working on the District-Wide Approach in Rulindo, and we really appreciate you taking the time to speak with us.

PERPETUE: Thank you. It was my pleasure.

ALEC: Thanks again to Perpetue, for sharing more about collaboration around the District-Wide Approach in Rwanda. We look forward to following along as these efforts continue. We appreciate you tuning in to our second episode of Conversations with Collaboration Champions, we hope you found it insightful. We’ll be back again soon with our next episode, where we will hear more about collaborative WASH sector strengthening efforts in Cambodia. Stay tuned!

[1] Water For People Rwanda works actively in Rulindo, Kicukiro, Gicumbi, and Karongi districts, and has been supporting the pilot of the District-Wide Approach in Gicumbi, Bugesera, Ngororero, Karongi, and Nyamagabe districts.

Interested in learning more? Stay tuned for our next episode, where we will discuss collaborative WASH systems strengthening in Cambodia.

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