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A critical evaluative enquiry of the community based management model and alternative approaches for sustainable rural water management

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

This empirical study evaluates the outcomes of community managed rural groundwater sources in mid-west Uganda based on the fundamentals of the Community Based Management (CBM) model: the neo-liberal consensus of user payment to cover recurrent maintenance costs of a water system and, the grassroots ideal of community control and ‘bottom-up’ development.
The thesis demonstrates why the two wings of the CBM model form an unholy alliance amidst the messy reality of rural environments. It shows how user payment tends to corrupt and prevent collective action, how it destabilises community relations and, adversely, encourages freeriding.
The study goes beyond criticising CBM and studies an alternative rural water management model – CBM-lite’ – piloted by a water and sanitation NGO in Uganda. CBM-lite alters the organisational and governance arrangements of the CBM model but remains within the institutional CBM framework. While the innovation builds upon local agreement about the problem of non-payment and inactivity of Water User Committees and uses practitioner recommendations for improving sustainable rural water management, the illuminative case illustrates why – in a user pays era – community control may need to be removed from rural water management arrangements.
The thesis shows, however, a rural water sector intransigent to change due to disagreement about the root causes of handpump non-functionality and consequent solutions towards sustainability. It demonstrates that known risks of the CBM model may be preferable to potential harm to ideology, policy coherence, organisational reputation and social and cultural norms. The study reveals a discomfort with user payment and, CBM, ironically, as a vehicle to avoid the user pays principle. To remove the deadlock in the rural water sector, a research agenda is proposed to investigate alternative approaches for reliable access to water in rural areas.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award dateFeb 2017

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