F. WASH: Tonle Sap Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project (Cambodia)

(NB: To read more about gender, WASH and CCA, see Sectoral Module E.)

Project Name:

Tonle Sap Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project





Implementing Organizations:
Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD)

Funding Partners:

Budget (US$):


Project Objectives:

Sustained access by all community members, including the poorest, to safe water and hygiene and better sanitation to improve the quality of life and health of rural residents of the project areas.

The project targets were to:

  • Increase the percentage of the rural population with access to safe water to 50 percent
  • Increase the percentage of the rural population with access to sanitation facilities to 30 percent.

Notable Gender-Related Activities and Processes:
(Source: ADB 2011a)

  • Hired gender specialist to participate on review teams.
  • Gender awareness included in the capacity-building program for the MoRD, along with other project management topics in 30 separate multiday training sessions.
  • Developed a gender strategy output, with capacity-building and institutional support elements, for the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RWSS), as an input to the national RWSS strategy.

Notable Gender-Related Results:
(Source: ADB 2011a)

Impacts included:

  • Women’s time spent on water collection decreased with improved water supply and hygienic latrines for individual households
  • Reduced household income spent on water purchases from private vendors
  • Increased safety and convenience for women when household latrines replaced nighttime open defecation practices.


Asian Development Bank. 2005. Report and recommendation of the President to the Board of Directors on a proposed grant to the Kingdom of Cambodia for the Tonle Sap rural water supply and sanitation sector project. ADB, Manila, the Philippines.

———. 2009a. Cambodia: Rural water and sanitation—Can a gender action plan make a difference? Press release on gender equality case study. ADB, Manila, the Philippines.

———. 2011a. Completion report, Cambodia: Tonle Sap rural water supply and sanitation project. ADB, Manila, the Philippines.

———. 2013c. Project data sheet. Tonle Sap rural water supply and sanitation sector project. ADB, Manila, the Philippines.

Karin Schelzig (kschelzig@adb.org)

1. Introduction

Cambodia has inadequate water and sanitation resources. Climate change is expected to exacerbate these problems by likely reducing water availability and quality problems. Inadequate water supplies and sanitation lead to higher rates of diseases, causing public health hazards and requiring more of women’s time for family caretaking. Although Cambodians have made improvements, their rural water coverage remains one of the lowest in Asia. As a result, the Government of Cambodia developed the national water supply and sanitation policy, which established the objective that “every person in rural communities has sustained access to safe water supply and sanitation services and [is] living in a hygienic environment by 2025.”

Women are the primary users of water, family hygiene educators, and managers of RWSS. They are not always invited to participate in the development of these local systems, and their roles are limited in formal management and O&M. Furthermore, they are underrepresented in professional positions in water and sanitation sectors but likely overrepresented in hygiene education. Hygiene programs and communication campaigns tend to focus on women as primary family educators.

Beginning in 2006, the ADB Tonle Sap Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project assisted the MoRD in Cambodia to achieve its RWSS Investment Plan (2005–2015) and the Cambodian Millennium Development Goals in the five provinces around the Tonle Sap Basin: Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Thom, Pursat, and Siem Reap (ADB 2013c). There were 859 targeted communities in 129 communes in 18 districts (ADB 2011a). The project aimed to increase the percentage of the rural population with access to safe water supply to 50 percent and sanitation facilities to 30 percent by 2015, and the project is in line with the Cambodia Millennium Development Goals targets. The project also aimed to reduce child mortality from waterborne diseases by half of the 1990 level. The project had four components:

  • Community mobilization and skills development
  • Water supply improvement
  • Sanitation improvement
  • Capacity building and institutional support

2. Summary of Project

General description of proposal preparation

  • Household surveys that included usage, interests, and average willingness and capability to pay monthly fees for water supply (ADB 2005).
  • Gender analysis covering demographic, rights, and use issues for the various ethnic groups in the project areas (ADB 2009a).
  • Stakeholder analysis that identified primary stakeholders as including rural residents, resettlement-affected peoples, the poorest households and vulnerable groups, water and sanitation users, village authorities, planning and budgeting committees, commune councils, the private sector, gender working groups, and all administrative levels of the MoRD. Secondary stakeholders were provincial rural development committees, the Inter-Ministerial Resettlement Committee, mass organizations, and relevant line agencies. Female-headed households were treated as a specific stakeholder group and consulted (ADB 2005).
  • The project was developed through a set of public consultations, workshops, and meetings with stakeholders, including formal surveys and participatory rural appraisals. Issues discussed included water supply and sanitation issues, poverty levels, beneficiary contributions and affordability of services, land acquisition and environmental concerns, hygiene practices, and O&M challenges (ibid.).

Gender integration during project design/formulation and proposal preparation

  • Convened community meetings with potential beneficiaries to discuss water supply and sanitation issues, poverty levels, beneficiary contribution and affordability issues, land acquisition and environmental concerns, hygiene practices, and O&M challenges (ADB 2013c).
  • Conducted a gender analysis during project preparation and refined it during project implementation. The earlier study found that women comprised about 52 percent of the combined population of the five provinces and headed about 27 percent of all households (ADB 2005). The study found that the latter group was not homogeneous. Gender relations and inheritance rights differed among the Khmer majority and the Cham Muslim minority, as well as between Vietnamese and Chinese families. The proposed project activities were expected to be of greater benefit to women than men with respect to time-savings, a reduced burden of labor, and improved family health. Three-quarters of the respondents reported that women and children are responsible for collecting water. During the dry season, they spend up to three hours per day collecting water with frequent trips and long queues at water points. Most people (65–75 percent) perceived women as the household members who were responsible for proper hygiene and for cleaning water jars and around the well area (ADB 2009a).
  • Developed a GAP as a precondition for the ADB loan agreement, secured government agreement to fully implement the GAP as part of the loan covenants, and conducted an assessment of the GAP’s impact and results in a 2009 study.
  • Identified minimum targets for women’s participation and included these in the GAP: Water and Sanitation User Group boards (40 percent women;50 percent of O&M training participants), staff of contracted NGOs (50 percent women), skills development participants (40 percent women and 50 percent of trained maintenance personnel), and male participation in hygiene and sanitation education (40 percent men) (ADB 2005).
  • Made plans to develop national guidelines for gender mainstreaming in RWSS to build the capacity of the gender working group within the MoRD (ibid.).
  • Focused livelihood development for women and the poorest residents via provision of information on livelihood opportunities arising from water and sanitation-related activities (e.g., (installation, construction, and O&M of latrines, wells, rainwater, and filter equipment, sludge removal, etc.);identifying potential participants;offering skills capacity development and linkages;or referral to livelihood improvement projects.
  • Relied on NGO providers to apply a user-friendly, gender-sensitive approach to community development and livelihood activities and planned to offer NGOs training on participatory, gender, and technical issues and tools.
  • Developed a capacity-building program that included gender awareness with other technical and administrative topics for MoRD staff at national and subnational levels and the commune councils.
  • Monitored the level of participation of women and vulnerable groups and the degree to which they benefit. Results were compared to baseline survey data for each community (ADB 2005). NGO partners organized data through villages and communes, and the data was stored in a database maintained by the Project Implementation Units and the Project Management Unit. All monitoring data and indicators were disaggregated by gender, ethnicity, and income (ibid.).

Key gender-related results

  • Women’s participation in project activities is widespread. By the end of the project, half of the almost 920,000 participants in the project information dissemination meetings that were organized in every project village were women. Just over 43 percent of the Water and Sanitation User Group board members trained on hand-pump O&M were women (ADB 2013c). In late 2009, the project recorded that women constituted about 56 percent of the participants in village-level meetings on the formation of water user groups and information dissemination sessions on community water management and technology. The boards of 5,330 newly established Water and Sanitation User Groups were 43 percent women, or approximately two of the five board members (ADB 2009a).
  • Construction of separate school latrines for girls to respect local modesty norms and encourage girls to stay in school. (ADB 2005)
  • Developed guidelines on mainstreaming gender in the RWSS sector in 2009 (ADB 2013c).

3. Conclusion


  • Both community-level socioeconomic surveys and gender analysis at the beginning of the project provided site-specific information for shaping project choices, based on gender and ethnic norms.
  • Targets set for women’s participation led to different project strategies.
  • Targets addressed women’s representation at various levels, including group leaders and members.
  • Included activities to increase women’s roles in RWSS enterprises and O&M.

Lessons learned and missed opportunities

  • Monitoring was sex-disaggregated, but these results are not discussed for many of the indicators. Similarly, the sex of household heads does not appear in final reports.
  • Women’s roles in formulating water supply and sanitation village plans are not well-articulated in the project design nor is their involvement discussed in final reports.
  • It is not clear how many women were able to find work with RWSS enterprises, compared to men, or who played a role in O&M maintenance of village hand pumps.
  • Men’s participation in hygiene education is unknown.
  • Nationwide awareness campaign on water use and hygiene education could have been tailored differently to reach men and women (e.g., messages, media channels). There is no evidence that baseline information was used for this purpose.