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Crime and punishment: the challenges of free-riding and peer sanctioning in the rural water sector – lessons from an innovation in Uganda

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Crime and punishment: the challenges of free-riding and peer sanctioning in the rural water sector – lessons from an innovation in Uganda. / Brown, Julia; van den Broek, Marije.

In: Geoforum, Vol. 112, 0, 01.06.2020, p. 41-51.

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@article{6ded303d2a7a454f9c859e519fb1d64c,
title = "Crime and punishment: the challenges of free-riding and peer sanctioning in the rural water sector – lessons from an innovation in Uganda",
abstract = "Across sub-Saharan Africa the performance of Community Based Management (CBM) for rural water has been disappointing, with studies indicating insufficient funds collected for necessary repairs to the handpumps used to access groundwater, upon which millions depend. Free-riding, usually representing a crime against the collective good, is endemic here because peer sanctioning of transgressors proves socially divisive. This study, the result of extensive fieldwork, presents original data on the outcomes of an alternative model, CBM-lite, piloted in mid-west Uganda. A Water Operator from the community was financially incentivised to collect the user fees, though graduated sanctions were still to be determined and enforced by community structures. CBM-lite saw the repair of handpumps utilising funds released by a microfinance institution due to regular deposits. People are prepared to pay for reactive maintenance, but reject the concept of preventative contributions: free-riding resumed once handpumps were functional because sanctioning again proved too challenging. The paper makes a number of significant contributions to environmental governance debates. First, any management model not designed to overcome the public good problem of free-riding will fail to achieve sustainable results. Second, the research identified deeply ingrained social norms that counter-intuitively consider individual advancement a greater crime than free-riding, condoning social-levelling peer punishment of the pilot Water Operators. Depersonalising interactions via pre-payment technologies may hold potential. Equally, differentiating a hierarchy of social norms may present some leverage for nudging, with context appropriate communication, of less culturally ingrained behaviour, to promote for example an acceptance of preventative maintenance.",
keywords = "embargoover12, rural groundwater, sub-Saharan Africa, community based management, public good problem free-ridiing, operation and maitenance, sustainability",
author = "Julia Brown and {van den Broek}, Marije",
year = "2020",
month = jun,
day = "1",
doi = "10.1016/j.geoforum.2020.03.013",
language = "English",
volume = "112",
pages = "41--51",
journal = "Geoforum",
issn = "0016-7185",
publisher = "Elsevier BV",

}

RIS

TY - JOUR

T1 - Crime and punishment: the challenges of free-riding and peer sanctioning in the rural water sector – lessons from an innovation in Uganda

AU - Brown, Julia

AU - van den Broek, Marije

PY - 2020/6/1

Y1 - 2020/6/1

N2 - Across sub-Saharan Africa the performance of Community Based Management (CBM) for rural water has been disappointing, with studies indicating insufficient funds collected for necessary repairs to the handpumps used to access groundwater, upon which millions depend. Free-riding, usually representing a crime against the collective good, is endemic here because peer sanctioning of transgressors proves socially divisive. This study, the result of extensive fieldwork, presents original data on the outcomes of an alternative model, CBM-lite, piloted in mid-west Uganda. A Water Operator from the community was financially incentivised to collect the user fees, though graduated sanctions were still to be determined and enforced by community structures. CBM-lite saw the repair of handpumps utilising funds released by a microfinance institution due to regular deposits. People are prepared to pay for reactive maintenance, but reject the concept of preventative contributions: free-riding resumed once handpumps were functional because sanctioning again proved too challenging. The paper makes a number of significant contributions to environmental governance debates. First, any management model not designed to overcome the public good problem of free-riding will fail to achieve sustainable results. Second, the research identified deeply ingrained social norms that counter-intuitively consider individual advancement a greater crime than free-riding, condoning social-levelling peer punishment of the pilot Water Operators. Depersonalising interactions via pre-payment technologies may hold potential. Equally, differentiating a hierarchy of social norms may present some leverage for nudging, with context appropriate communication, of less culturally ingrained behaviour, to promote for example an acceptance of preventative maintenance.

AB - Across sub-Saharan Africa the performance of Community Based Management (CBM) for rural water has been disappointing, with studies indicating insufficient funds collected for necessary repairs to the handpumps used to access groundwater, upon which millions depend. Free-riding, usually representing a crime against the collective good, is endemic here because peer sanctioning of transgressors proves socially divisive. This study, the result of extensive fieldwork, presents original data on the outcomes of an alternative model, CBM-lite, piloted in mid-west Uganda. A Water Operator from the community was financially incentivised to collect the user fees, though graduated sanctions were still to be determined and enforced by community structures. CBM-lite saw the repair of handpumps utilising funds released by a microfinance institution due to regular deposits. People are prepared to pay for reactive maintenance, but reject the concept of preventative contributions: free-riding resumed once handpumps were functional because sanctioning again proved too challenging. The paper makes a number of significant contributions to environmental governance debates. First, any management model not designed to overcome the public good problem of free-riding will fail to achieve sustainable results. Second, the research identified deeply ingrained social norms that counter-intuitively consider individual advancement a greater crime than free-riding, condoning social-levelling peer punishment of the pilot Water Operators. Depersonalising interactions via pre-payment technologies may hold potential. Equally, differentiating a hierarchy of social norms may present some leverage for nudging, with context appropriate communication, of less culturally ingrained behaviour, to promote for example an acceptance of preventative maintenance.

KW - embargoover12

KW - rural groundwater

KW - sub-Saharan Africa

KW - community based management

KW - public good problem free-ridiing

KW - operation and maitenance

KW - sustainability

UR - https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0016718520300786

U2 - 10.1016/j.geoforum.2020.03.013

DO - 10.1016/j.geoforum.2020.03.013

M3 - Article

VL - 112

SP - 41

EP - 51

JO - Geoforum

JF - Geoforum

SN - 0016-7185

M1 - 0

ER -

ID: 20471334