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Scaling up community management of rural water supply

Among the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for the year 2015 is a commitment to “reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe water”. There is little doubt that community management will be the predominant model for those striving to reach that goal by bringing sustainable water supplies to hundreds of millions of rural people in the next twelve years. Two decades of experience with participatory approaches, decentralization, cost sharing and technological adaptation mean that donors, NGOs and national governments have all the evidence they need that demand-driven community-led approaches delivers better results than the supply-driven government-led models that prevailed up to the 1980s. There remains a place for public and private utilities to deliver rural water supplies in the right circumstances, but it is community-managed systems that will best meet the needs of the vast majority. Knowing the right way forward is one thing, but achieving the rate of progress needed is
quite another. The MDG translates into a target of 280,000 new water users every day for twelve years. That is an awful lot of projects and programmes under way, all demanding
human, financial and technical resources. So far, community-management projects have been mainly small in scale and highly repetitive in the essential elements of mobilisation, participation, needs assessment, willingness-to-pay surveys, capacity building and, eventually, project implementation. We simply do not have the time and resources to continue with this intensive approach to building new systems. We must also address the need to provide on-going support to the many existing systems, which may otherwise fail prematurely. As well as “replicating successes”, which has been a rallying call in the last decade, we need to concentrate on “scaling up” the community-management model to bring concurrent successes to many communities at one time. Having spent two decades learning how to bring decision-making and implementation
down to the community level, it may seem inherently contradictory to advocate for scaling up community management. This is not necessarily the case. Shared experiences,
common support structures, streamlined financing, and multi-level institutional linkages are among the mechanisms that can be part of the scaling up process. Some countries and some agencies have made bold attempts to go to scale with community-managed RWS programmes. Their experiences hold valuable lessons for others. In this TOP, we draw on those experiences to identify the main challenges and some hopeful ways of addressing them. [authors abstract]

TitleScaling up community management of rural water supply
Publication TypeMiscellaneous
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsLockwood, H
Secondary TitleThematic overview paper / IRC
Paginationvi, 91 p.; 54 refs.; 18 boxes; 1 fig.
Date Published2004-03-01
PublisherIRC
Place PublishedDelft, The Netherlands
Keywordsaccess to water, millennium development goals, rural areas, safe water supply, scaling up, water supply
Abstract

Among the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for the year 2015 is a commitment to “reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe water”. There is little doubt that community management will be the predominant model for those striving to reach that goal by bringing sustainable water supplies to hundreds of millions of rural people in the next twelve years. Two decades of experience with participatory approaches, decentralization, cost sharing and technological adaptation mean that donors, NGOs and national governments have all the evidence they need that demand-driven community-led approaches delivers better results than the supply-driven government-led models that prevailed up to the 1980s. There remains a place for public and private utilities to deliver rural water supplies in the right circumstances, but it is community-managed systems that will best meet the needs of the vast majority. Knowing the right way forward is one thing, but achieving the rate of progress needed is
quite another. The MDG translates into a target of 280,000 new water users every day for twelve years. That is an awful lot of projects and programmes under way, all demanding
human, financial and technical resources. So far, community-management projects have been mainly small in scale and highly repetitive in the essential elements of mobilisation, participation, needs assessment, willingness-to-pay surveys, capacity building and, eventually, project implementation. We simply do not have the time and resources to continue with this intensive approach to building new systems. We must also address the need to provide on-going support to the many existing systems, which may otherwise fail prematurely. As well as “replicating successes”, which has been a rallying call in the last decade, we need to concentrate on “scaling up” the community-management model to bring concurrent successes to many communities at one time. Having spent two decades learning how to bring decision-making and implementation
down to the community level, it may seem inherently contradictory to advocate for scaling up community management. This is not necessarily the case. Shared experiences,
common support structures, streamlined financing, and multi-level institutional linkages are among the mechanisms that can be part of the scaling up process. Some countries and some agencies have made bold attempts to go to scale with community-managed RWS programmes. Their experiences hold valuable lessons for others. In this TOP, we draw on those experiences to identify the main challenges and some hopeful ways of addressing them. [authors abstract]

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The copyright of the documents on this site remains with the original publishers. The documents may therefore not be redistributed commercially without the permission of the original publishers.