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The political economy of community management: a study of factors influencing sustainability in Malawi’s rural water supply sector

Chowns, Eleanor Elizabeth (2014)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Sustainability is a major challenge in the rural water supply sector, where efforts to realise the right to clean water are undermined by high levels of non-functionality. This thesis uses mixed methods to test the relative influence of ten proximate determinants of sustainability, and to critically examine the social, economic and political dynamics underlying these determinants – especially the community management model, which places responsibility for water point functionality on users.

The study finds that the key proximate determinants include both technical factors (e.g. water point type and installation quality) and management factors (e.g. availability of funds and incidence of theft). These in turn are driven by the way that community management structures interact with socially embedded institutions. Contrary to the claims made for participatory approaches, the study finds that community management is frequently inefficient and disempowering.

Drawing on the concepts of institutional bricolage and civil society failure, the analysis shows that community management generates conflict and reproduces inequality at community level, and embeds perverse incentives and consolidates clientelism at a wider level. The study concludes that community management leads to erosion of social capital and abdication of state responsibility, and argues that donors should reconsider their support for it.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Leurs, Robert and Nunan, Fiona
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
Department:School of Government and Society
Subjects:JA Political science (General)
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:5014
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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