Mind the GAP – what about small towns?

MIND THE GAP… It is commonly known that investments in water supply and sanitation are mostly mobilized either for rural villages (handpumps/latrines) or cities (large piped networks). The GAP is in SMALL TOWNS. Mozambique has more than 120 small towns with dilapidated infrastructure built by the Portuguese colonialists in the 1950s and 1960s. The infrastructure was designed to serve a population of less than 1000 and many of these towns now have a population of more than 20,000.

Ribaue Water Supply in Nampula Mozambique

In a recent field mission to Nampula Province, the Government of Mozambique department responsible for small towns (AIAS) and UNICEF engineers visited 5 small towns that are receiving significant investments from the Government of Australia (AusAID) under the banner of the programme – NAMWASH.


NAMWASH has the objective of ensuring that 150,000 people in 5 small towns gain access to safe and sustainable water and sanitation. The model of implementation is based on a Delegated Framework where the operation and maintenance of the water supply is done by an independent operator which is then regulated by CRA (Water Regulator of Mozambique). The model will be tested in phase 1 of the project in Ribaue town in Nampula.

Coal corridor of Mozambique

This work is essential as Mozambique is experiencing a boom in investment from the extractive industries and overnight ports, railways and roads are being developed and rehabilitated to facilitate the movement and export of goods. Towns along these railways and roads are expanding with ever increasing migrant labour coming into Mozambique from neighboring countries.

CLOSE THE GAP – projects such as NAMWASH need to be used as catalysts for future investments



8 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. It is great to see that this is receiving attention in Mozambique. WaterAid undertook some research a couple of years ago across six countries in order the inform our approaches to the issue of WASH in fast expanding and fast multiplying small towns.

    Please have a look at the following website for the results of this research: http://small-towns.org/

    There is a full written report, or alternatively a series of videos that will take you through the appraoch and key findings.

    In extreme summary two key issues emerged:
    1. Where the urgency has been recognised by governments (which is to be applauded), unfortunately “one-size-fits-all” approaches to service delivery have been the order of the day. As a result, often the systems developed, financing mechanisms and management models are not wholey appropriate for the development context of each town.
    2. There is a great need for support to be provided for the development of strategic muti-sectoral strategic development “plans” / visions for these towns, without which decisions around WASH service delivery options might not positively assist the town’s development.

    I have specifically put the word “plans” in quotes as by this we do not necessarily mean hugely detailed master plans, but rather development visions which might be a a a higher level.

    I would be interested in your thoughts after you have had a look at the information on the website above. Some of our subsequent small towns work that we are supporting in countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Tanzania and Madagascar are picking up and testing some of these approaches. Ideally I woudl like to start collecting some of these experiences from within WaterAid and beyond and developing the small-towns.org website into a repository / resource for small towns WASH. Let me know too if you are interested in collaborating in this regard.

    All the best
    Erik Harvey
    Technical Support Manager

    • Erik, Thank you for your highly informative e mail. Under the GoM-AusAID-UNICEF NAMWASH programme, we are working on SANITATION MASTER PLANS for the 5 towns. This will have a design life of 10 years and will consider socio-economic, financial, technical, social and institutional aspects of sanitation planning in small towns. The plans will be developed in collaboration with the municipal and district administrators and will address solid, liquid and faecal waste management. I will keep you posted.

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