Carter, R. C.
Year of Publishing
Rural Water Supply Network
There is a strong drive among many rural water professionals to move away from community management (which is deemed to have failed) to ‘professionalised’ service provision by private enterprises or public utilities.
I estimate that a few tens of millions of rural people in sub-Saharan Africa (the geographical focus of the paper) currently have a service provided by a ‘professional’ entity in this sense; and that a similar number may enjoy a community managed arrangement in the true sense (i.e. in which the community’s skills have been brought to an appropriate level for their various tasks, and in which there is a for-mal arrangement for external support). This may leave about 500 million rural people whose water service is effectively unmanaged.
I argue that the apparent failure of community management is a problem of implementation, not so much the model itself as originally envisaged. This failure is largely that of implementers neglecting to ensure the existence of adequate community capacity and external support.
The transition to professional management arrangements will take time. Systems which are currently effectively unmanaged should increasingly be supported by local governments and their development partners. At the same time more experimentation with service provision by private enterprises and public utilities should be encouraged, and the learning from such transition experiments be properly documented.
I conclude with five principles for the transition, urging (a) realistic time scales, (b) genuine public participation, (c) experimentation and learning, (d) a recognition of the unpredictability of the change process, and (e) openness to a plurality of outcomes.
Carter, R. C. (2023) Professionalising community management of rural water supply. Navigating the transition in sub-Saharan Africa , Rural Water Supply Network , Skat Foundation , St. Gallen, Switzerland
Professionalising community management of rural water supply
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