Cost Recovery Planning: An essential tool to help schools ensure long-term success of WASH investments

Updated - Tuesday 27 February 2018

When applied by the stakeholders the tool helps them identify the costs and revenue from a WASH investment as well as maintaining and sustaining it and the gap between the two. Often the government funding that schools receive is not enough to cover all the expenses incurred. The tool also looks at the required activities/actions to implement, maintain and sustain the investment levels.

The FIETS sustainability principles are applied creating a collaborative process for stakeholders to learn the objectives and importance of cost recovery and how best it can be achieved with regard to Financial, Institutional, Environmental, Technological and Social support systems. During brainstorming sessions, the stakeholders identify requirements, opportunities, challenges and activities, and plan for them. 

This is a collaborative process. Community members gather together to learn the objectives and the importance of cost recovery plans. Then, during brainstorming sessions, they are to identify income-generating opportunities and draw up plans.

Cost Recovery Planning Tool in Practice

Below we list some components of a CRP structure. These items are just examples and may differ per school.

1. Preliminary Information

  • School Information
    • School name, school location, contact person, contact details…etc.
    • Beneficiaries
      • Population (gender specific) of students, teachers, and other community users.   
    • School hardware facilities
      • Nature and types of functional latrine, toilets, handwashing taps, water facilities…etc.

 2. Annual Revenue

  • Relevant income for WASH operation and maintenance
    • Government contribution
    • Parent contribution
    • NGO contribution
    • Other sponsors
    • Income generating activities  

  3. Annual Cost

  • Water – mainly related to repair, maintenance, and replacement as well as operational cost such as electricity
    • Tap points
    • Piped water
    • Water tanks
    • Water pumps
    • Water treatment system
    • Rain water harvesting
    • Other cost
    • Sanitation
      • Wage of cleaners, handyman…etc.
      • Sanitation blocks repair (locks, vent pipes, door hinges, wall painting, pots, floor, holes, replacement of doors…etc.)
      • Emptying pits, toilet paper, sanitary towels, detergent, cleaning materials…etc.
      • Other cost
      • Hygiene
        • Wash basins (soaps, repairs, maintenance, replacement…etc.)
        • Extracurricular activities to promote hygiene practices
        • Emptying and collection of solid waste
        • Other cost

4. General cost

  • School WASH management committee (meetings, training, transportation, food, hardware, administration…etc.)
  • Water quality testing

Cost Recovery Rate

The next step is for the school to calculate its cost recovery rate (REVENUE/COST 100%) in order to assess challenges, draw up cost recovery plans, and explore potential income generating activities. There are three possible scenarios:

  1. Revenues < Costs (cost recovery rate between 0-100%)
  2. Revenues = Costs (cost recovery rate is exactly 100%)
  3. Revenues > Costs (cost recovery rate is higher than 100%)

For these three scenarios, a yardstick for the viability of cost recovery is set to inform the allocation and use of revenue collected for WASH investment maintenance and sustenance.

When the cost recovery rate from revenue collected is low, this implies inadequate revenue allocation and use of the WASH investment.  When the cost recovery rate is higher than the revenue, there is a threat that the income generating initiative is not meeting the WASH goals in the long term and they need to reconsider the strategy. When revenue and costs are equal, then the income generated meets the cost recovery needs.   

Lessons Learned

During the process, we have also encountered some challenges and here are some takeaways from one of our local partners, CABDA, who implements the programme in Kenya.

  1. Cost recovery implementation varies with the resources, opportunities and challenges in a given location and school. Therefore, it works best when customized to the aspirations of a given setting.
  2. Different schools have different costs for the same item. We need to be aware that the market value differs even for neighbouring schools.
  3. The involvement of all stakeholders during the entire project implementation, from planning to evaluation, is highly important to ensure the success.
  4. Schools are not very innovative when it comes to income-generating activities. This could be due to general low levels of literacy as well as a strong influence of donors on WASH. It is normal that schools are encouraged to brainstorm ideas, but they hope that donors will come to their rescue when there are difficulties. The government policy is also playing a role here: when education is free, parents are reluctant to contribute and so is the community. Schools also shy away from private initiatives to generate income
  5. Only a few schools have viable income generating projects that related to agriculture, water selling, and the use of human waste as fertilizer as well as materials for biogas.
  6. Cost recovery is a novel tool and so few schools have tried it out. Therefore, few schools particularly WASH &Learn schools have viable income. There is a need to scale up the application of the tool to more schools as well as urge its use in government programming for schools

About WASH and Learn!

The WASH and Learn! programme integrates community and school WASH projects in three adjacent countries in East Africa; Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Together with six local NGO partners, Simavi implements this programme, focusing on water supply and sanitation, and hygiene behaviour improvements. 

Simavi continues to work with communities for creating a positive and enabling environment in which every stakeholder is active and to ensure that people use the WASH services properly.

More information on the WASH & Learn! programme can be found here.