Honduras overview

Honduras is a relatively small country with a population of some 7.5 million, of which approximately 4.2 million live in rural areas. Economic growth rates have been high in the past years, yet a significant number of people – up to 50% – remain below the poverty line. It has a GDP per capita of US$4,151 (IMF, 2010). Decentralisation started in 1990 with the Municipal Law. Current coverage for rural water supply stands at around 77%, but it is significantly lower for those living in highly dispersed small rural communities. The political situation has been highly fragile in recent years.

The country is divided administratively into 18 departments, and there are 298 municipalities, with clear definitions between rural and urban areas.

Main sector institutions

  • In common with most countries in the Latin American countries region, the Ministry of Health is the ultimate authority for water supply issues. Sector organisation is relatively well defined, with a separation of functions between a number of key institutions:
  • Consejo Nacional de Agua Potable y Saneamiento (CONASA) is the National Council for Water and Sanitation, and is the apex body for policy development and planning.
  • Ente Regulador de los Servicios de Agua Potable y Saneamiento (ERSAPS) is the sector regulatory body responsible for setting normative standards and performance criteria for operators.
  • Servicio Autónomo Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados (SANAA) is the National Autonomous Service for Water and Sewerage. It is a parastatal body that was previously responsible for direct implementation and support functions, but under the new reform framework it provides support, and direct implementation should fall to municipalities.
  • Municipal and urban authorities are responsible for ensuring service provision to their populations.
  • National and international NGOs play a significant role in both the construction of new systems and support to O&M, accounting for some 15-20% of implementation, but generally with a semi-permanent presence.

In addition there is the Fondo Hondureño de Inversión Social (FHIS) (Honduran Social Investment Fund), which is the largest implementing programme in the country accounting for and on behalf of all direct investment in the water sector.

Service Delivery Models

There are four principal SDMs recognised in sector policy:

  1. CBM, – although for larger communities (i.e. more than 500 households or with multi-village schemes) voluntary models are considered to be limited and more professionalised approaches are the norm.
  2. Municipal provision through small scale utilities run by local government.
  3. Utility provision – public or private.
  4. Self-supply, which refers to highly dispersed small rural committees (of up to about 250 people) formally recognised, but with no formal support programmes).

Key issues

CBM has been heavily promoted and generally well implemented in the past. In addition there is a well-documented track record in the area of post-construction support and sector information systems, producing several innovative models over the last decades. As a result, sustainability of rural water supply has been relatively well-managed, particularly with support from development partners (USAID and large INGOs). But in recent years this support has reduced significantly with the associated deterioration of support systems.

More recent changes under the sector modernisation process, started in 2003, but largely stalled over the past five years, are promising and include many of the elements and institutions that are required for adopting a sustainable SDA on paper (coordination and planning platforms, a regulator, legal recognition of CBM options, monitoring systems, etc.). However, in practice, these elements are not adequately funded and, most importantly, are not coordinated in a coherent way. The sector remains largely donor dependent, but determining the exact level and sources of funding streams is challenging as there is no single annualised overview of financial flows or clear financing policy. There are also limited consolidated planning and investment processes. The result is a somewhat fragmented sector which lacks the final ‘kilometre’ of finalising policy and improving national coordination mechanisms.