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Given below is a brief background designed to elucidate the reasons for the existence of the Rural Water Supply Branch.


The Rural Water Supply Branch (RWSB) was established as a unit of the Water and Sewerage Board (WSB) in 1975 to address the issue of potable water supply in rural areas. At the time the WSB was a department within the then Ministry of Works Power and Communication. The Branch was funded by a special fund as it was basically established to provide a social service.

In 1977 the United Nations, in the Argentinean City of Mar Del Plata, promulgated the establishment of the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (IDWSSD). The "Decade", as it became popularly known, was an international initiative to ensure that all the needy people, particularly those living in rural areas, received potable water and adequate sanitation facilities in as a means of improving their standard of living. The Decade was to span the period 1981 to 1990 whereupon all developing countries of the world were to have addressed the issue of poor water supply and sanitation prevailing within their borders.

Each participating country in the IDWSSD was, therefore, charged with the responsibility of establishing a "National Action Committee" (NAC) that would guide and oversee the development of the rural water supply and sanitation sector. The NAC would develop national policy, design and construction standards and water quality guidelines to ensure delivery of safe water supplies and adequate sanitation facilities to rural areas. To this end, the National Action Group (NAG) was established in Swaziland by Cabinet Paper No. 8 of 1979.

Represented in the National Action Group, through their senior executive officers, were the Ministries of Works Power and Communication (later replaced by the Ministry of Natural Resources, Land Utilization and Energy), Health, Finance and Agriculture and Cooperatives.

Within the precepts of the same Cabinet Paper, the Rural Water Supply Board was established as the implementing arm of and secretariat to the NAG.

The Rural Water Supply Board was established with the responsibility of supplying potable water to the rural areas of Swaziland. Within this mandate it would plan for, design, construct and maintain these water systems.

Financing for the Decade activities was derived primarily from donor sources and in Swaziland the two major contributors at the beginning of the programme were the Canadian International Development Aid (CIDA) and the British Overseas Development Assistance programme (ODA). CIDA supported institutional development by providing technical assistance in the form of expatriate staff and long-term professional training for locals. ODA, on the other hand, provided funding for the implementation of rural water supply projects.

Other major contributors to Decade activities were the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the European Economic Community (EEC now European Union, EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Other major contributors were to follow during the post Decade era.

The period 1979 to 1983 saw a rapid increase in rural water supply coverage with the RWSB increasing its sphere of responsibility from twenty-five to over 360 major rural water supply and sanitation schemes. However, this high rate of activity was flawed in that it was not guided by rationalized policy measures, uniform standards of design and construction, and an ad-hoc maintenance system was in place at the time. However, most critical of all, was the fact that there was no clearly defined framework within which recipient communities could actively participate. Project delivery was largely supply driven with very little input from the recipient communities as to the desirability of the system.

From 1983 to 1986 a revolutionary and evolutionary change occurred within the sector in that community participation was formalized within the sector. Furthermore, a structured national policy framework was developed through the creation of the Technical Sub-group (TSG). This was a body comprised of senior technical professionals drawn from key water sector agencies within government (namely the Rural Water Supply Branch, Water Resources Branch and Water and Sewerage Board), the Ministry of Health (Health Inspectorate section), the Town Councils (Manzini and Mbabane) and NGOs (e.g. Emanti Esive). The key concept that was espoused from this policy framework was that of the linkage between hygiene, sanitation and water supply.

The post 1987 era saw the implementation of integrated rural water supply and sanitation projects, which not only included such elements as construction of new schemes and procurement of equipment but also community training, hygiene education, shared maintenance burden between the RWSB and recipient communities.

During this period support from External Support Agencies (ESAs) continued to flow, with some new players coming into the fray such as the Netherlands Government and the Japanese Government through its aid agency JICA (Japanese International Cooperation Agency).

In the period spanning the years 1979 to 1996 water supply coverage in the rural areas of Swaziland rose from 9% to 46% and the number of schemes that the RWSB was responsible for rose correspondingly from 25 to over 360. However, amidst all this activity there was the dichotomy that the RWSB was still basically a temporary government project whose mandate had expired with the demise of the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade.

With coverage standing at only 40% in 1990 and the greater awareness amongst rural communities resulting from improved community participation, it was clear that there was still a great demand for the services provided by the RWSB. These concerns spawned the drive towards establishing the RWSB as a full-fledged government department. Thus through Cabinet Paper No. 96 of 1995 the Rural Water Supply Board was re-designated as the Rural Water Supply Branch whereupon it became a government department. This development resulted in a marked increase in financial support from Government not only for recurrent expenditure but for capital projects as well: of note are the rehabilitation of old water supplies project and the Water Relief Fund.

Mission statement:

The mandate of the Rural Water Supply Branch is to provide clean safe drinking water supplies to residents in the rural areas of Swaziland. In order to achieve this the RWSB undertakes to design, construct, maintain, repair and rehabilitate rural water supply schemes. The RWSB also undertakes to provide technical advice on design, construction and maintenance of rural water supply schemes to other government departments, non-governmental organizations and to rural communities themselves.

Objectives and Functions

The objectives and functions of the RWSB are clearly articulated below and are in keeping with the overall objective of the Government of Swaziland to ensure self-sufficiency amongst the rural populace of the country. The objectives also indicate that the RWSB is an integral player in the whole gamut of rural development despite the fact that the benefits accruing from its outputs are largely considered intangible, mainly because they manifest themselves in the form of improved health, increased productivity in the individual homestead and other such related benefits.

Another point of note is that the function of the RWSB is deeply entrenched in the primary health care process, as it is focused on preventative rather than curative health.

Overall Objective

To supply potable water supplies and provide adequate sanitation facilities to all rural communities in Swaziland in an effort to improve the standard of living of the inhabitants through the reduction of the incidence of water-borne and water-related diseases.

Strategic objectives

To ensure water supply coverage of rural areas reaches 64% by the end of the year 2000.

To ensure full water supply and sanitation coverage of rural areas by the year 2020.

To establish national standards for design, construction and water quality for water supply and sanitation project by 1999 through a systematic and formalized process of co-ordination with relevant sector agencies.

To ensure effective community participation and ownership in the implementation of all rural water supply and sanitation projects.


To establish and maintain rural water supply policy.

To establish design standards and parameters for rural water supply schemes.

To establish appropriate methods of construction for rural water supply systems.

To establish, monitor and maintain acceptable water quality standards for rural water supply and sanitation schemes.

To promote community participation and ownership through concerted mobilization, training, consultation, liaison and information dissemination mechanisms.

To establish co-ordination mechanisms with relevant sector agencies both within and without government.

To establish and maintain a sustainable maintenance system for rural water supply and sanitation schemes, which emphasizes the active participation and responsibility of the recipient communities.

To provide technical advise to all sector agencies, both governmental and non-governmental, on delivery of water supply and sanitation systems in the rural areas.

Design and Drafting

This section is headed by the Design Engineer. It prepares designs for water supply and sanitation schemes and carries out all work related to producing the final detailed design reports for the schemes being designed. The section is also charged with checking designs for water supply and sanitation schemes for rural communities that are prepared by organisations and individuals outside the Rural Water Supply Branch. The section also maintains and regularly updates the database of water supply schemes and requests for new ones and problematic ones.

Planning and Construction
This section is headed by the Planning and Construction Engineer. It prepares project and programme proposals for funding and also supervises the construction section. The section also coordinates work-plans for the whole department to ensure that available projects are distributed in a way that all implementing agencies have the capacities to complete them satisfactorily. The section also prepares and supervises drilling projects to provide water to communities that do not have naturally occurring water sources.

Operations and Maintenance
This section is headed by the Clerk of Works for Operations and Maintenance. This section provides technical support to communities in the form of maintenance technicians to assist communities in repairing broken down components of the water supply schemes. The section also carries out training for community members to carry out minor maintenance of their respective water supply schemes. The section also carries out preventative maintenance work with the assistance of the community members that they train.

Public Health Engineering Section
This section is headed by the Public Health Engineer. It monitors the quality of the water from all the water supply schemes in the rural areas of the country. It carries out tests for chemical and Bacteriological contamination to check if they meet the set water quality guidelines of the country. The section also carries out designs for treatment facilities for water supply schemes in rural areas. It also checks designs carried out by organisations and individuals outside the Rural Water Supply Branch.



Directorate: Mr. Makhosini Khoza
Postal Address: P.O. Box 6201
Physical Address: Millers Mansion Building  
Mdada st
Telephone: +268 2404 3585  +268 2404 2929

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