Debating real-world community-based management of water points

Community-management has been the mainstay of rural water supplies in Africa, and in many other parts of the world, but is it the only way? Are there better alternatives? In this lively webinar, researchers from the UPGro Hidden Crisis project discuss their research with RWSN members:

Do you have anything to add? Leave your comments below.

“The borehole is not a madman” Community management of groundwater in rural Uganda

by Dr Luke Whaley, Professor Frances Cleaver and Felece Katusiime (UPGro Hidden Crisis)

In Uganda, waterpoint committees exist more in name than in reality. Many waterpoints have been ‘personalised’. That is to say, they are under the control of one or a small number of individuals. Moreover, where local management arrangements (of any sort) are effective they tend to rely heavily on the authority of the head of the village council, known as the LC1 Chairperson. Indeed, it is often the LC1 Chairperson and not a waterpoint committee who is instrumental in collecting funds, securing maintenance and resolving disputes. Where an apparently functioning committee is in place, this is usually the result of concerted efforts on the part of particular local NGOs, who cannot guarantee this level of commitment in the longer term.

At least, these are the impressions of Felece Katusiime, a social science field researcher working on the UPGro ‘Hidden Crisis’ project, concerned with the sustainability of rural groundwater supply in Ethiopia, Uganda, and Malawi. They are field insights (preceding full data analysis) from someone who has spent many months in the field undertaking research in roughly 200 rural Ugandan villages. The discussion that follows is intended as a provocation and not a promulgation of project findings. We are interested in the extent to which the points made here accord or contrast with the experiences of you, the readers, and we welcome dialogue on these matters.

So, why might it be that in Uganda waterpoint committees,as envisaged on paper, seldom exist as such on the ground?

Continue reading “The borehole is not a madman” Community management of groundwater in rural Uganda

Ethiopian farmers and households have their say on their groundwater needs

re-posted from: Grofutures.org

The GroFutures team in Ethiopia has recently completed a survey of 400 households from predominantly agricultural communities within the Becho and Koka Plains of the Upper Awash Basin of Ethiopia; there are the same communities where the GroFutures team recently constructed and deployed new groundwater monitoring infrastructure. The team of social scientists, led by Yohannes Aberra of Addis Ababa University with support from Motuma Tolosa and Birhanu Maru, both from the Oromia Irrigation Development Authority, applied a questionnaire to poll respondent views on small-scale, household-level use of groundwater for irrigation, the status of groundwater governance, and their experiences of different irrigation, pump, conveyance and application technologies. The same questionnaire will be applied in other GroFutures basin observatories later this year.

The team began the household-level surveys on May 27th (2017) and completed 400 of these within 15 days. Two weeks prior to the start of the survey, the team reviewed the GroFutures-wide questionnaire to familiarize themselves with the questions and logistics of implementation. During implementation, the team encountered a major challenges in that many household heads were unavailable at their houses and had to be traced with all movements occurring in particularly hot weather.

In Becho, the team conducted questionnaires in the village of Alango Tulu whereas in Koka the team surveyed the village of Dungugi-Bekele.  As the total number of households does not exceed 600 in each village, the team’s polling of 200 households in each provided a high representative sample (>30%). The livelihoods of the polled village of Alango Tulu are dominated by local, household-level (small-scale) farming.  In the Dungugi-Bekele, the team focused on resident farmers though it was recognised that there are many irrigators who rent and cultivate land but don’t reside in the village.

The results of these questionnaires are eagerly awaited by the whole GroFutures team. A small sample of 30 questionnaires will be reviewed immediately by fellow GroFutures team members, Gebrehaweria Gebregziabher (IWMI) and Imogen Bellwood-Howard (IDS), and the Tanzanian colleagues (Andrew Tarimo and Devotha Mosha-Kilave) as they prepare shortly to trial the same questionnaire in the Great Ruaha Basin Observatory.

Photos: GroFutures social science team of the Upper Awash Basin in Ethiopia conducting household questionnaire survey in rural communities within the Becho and Koka Plains (GroFutures research team)

New UPGro studies explore links between groundwater and poverty in rural and urban Africa

Thanks to additional support from NERC at the beginning of 2017, some of the world’s leading experts on groundwater and poverty were brought together to test the assumptions that we make about how much we know and understand about the links between groundwater access and poverty. Does improving groundwater access reduce poverty? Or are their cases where it can increase disparities between rich and poor? There is a lack of data and evidence to make firm conclusions and this challenges the research teams in UPGro and beyond to challenge their assumptions.

Part of the rapid study explored the issues around groundwater dependency of urban areas in tropical Africa.  What is perhaps shocking, is how little municipal water utilities in these areas monitoring, manage and understand the groundwater resources on which millions of people – their customers – depend. Furthermore, there are indication that private, self-supply, boreholes can make it harder for water utilities to get sufficient income from wealthier users to help cross-subsidise piped connections to the poor.

For more details, on these and many other findings, download the UPGro Working Papers:

New: “Can ‘functionality’ save the community management model of rural water supply?

We are pleased to share a new UPGro paper from Luke Whaley and Prof. Frances Cleaver (Sheffield University) of the Hidden Crisis study – Can ‘functionality’ save the community management model of rural water supply?”

It is primarily a literature review paper so many elements will be familiar to rural water practitioners, however, Whaley and Cleaver are coming from a social science perspective so they highlight that previous analysis has focused on community management of water points as a “techno-managerial exercise” that largely ignores from broader social, political and cultural rules and relations around power – which groups and individuals have power over others and how is that used (or not used).

So what? The author’s suggest that current dialogue on water point functionality is not enough to save Community Based Management, because there is often a wider problem in with the under-resourcing of local government (and governance) and that more work is needed to help develop context-specific management, “rather than attempting to tweak the current blueprint of development the next ‘big thing’”

The full open access paper can be read and downloaded from Science Direct

Please take some time to read this and feel free to discuss – and argue! – about it in the RWSN Sustainable Services community