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

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/06/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>Water Resources and Rural Development
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)56-66
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English
Externally publishedYes


As attention increasingly turns to the sustainability of rural water supplies - and not simply overall levels of coverage or access - water point functionality has become a core concern for development practitioners and national governments, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Within the long-enduring Community-Based Management (CBM) model this has resulted in increased scrutiny of the “functionality” of the local water point committee (WPC) or similar community management organisation. This paper reviews the literature written from both practice-focused and critical-academic perspectives and identifies three areas that pose challenges to our understanding of water point functionality as it relates to CBM. These concern the relative neglect of (i) the local institutional and socio-economic landscape, (ii) broader governance processes and power dynamics, and (iii) the socio-technical interface. By examining these three areas, the paper engages with the specific issue of WPC functionality, whilst also considering broader issues relating to the framing of problems in development and the methodological and disciplinary ways that these are addressed. Furthermore, by focusing on community management of rural water points, the paper lays the ground for a more substantial critique of the continuing persistence of the CBM model as a central development strategy.