• What community characteristics lead to the successful outcome of rural water projects?

      Sam, Josephine-Mary; Todd, Susan; Meek, Chanda; Gasbarro, Anthony; Shapiro, Lewis; Shepherd, Judy (2016-05)
      Programs to provide clean water have been shown to lead to improvements in education, health and women’s economic conditions in beneficiary communities in the developing world. However, methods to ensure the sustainability of rural water supplies have been elusive. Handpumps in rural communities break down frequently; over 50 percent of handpumps in sub-Saharan Africa are unusable at any time, causing the people to go back to their traditional water sources of streams, ponds and shallow wells with their attendant health risks and inconvenience. These repeated failures have led development practitioners and funding agencies like the European Union to question the effectiveness of rural water supply programs. Clearly, there is a need to determine how to make rural water projects more sustainable. In this study, I posit that sustainable water projects are a function of five categories of variables: demonstrated ability to manage local projects, financial management of local projects, voluntary participation in community projects, an active role of women within the community, and widespread understanding of the benefits of clean water. This study addresses gaps in research within the rural water supply sector by examining multiple factors that influence the outcomes of rural water supply projects, rather than focusing on single variables as done in previous studies. I used interviews, focus group discussions, and analysis of village records to determine if these variables influenced the status of water projects in eight villages in Ghana. I found that all of these variables play a role in successful community water projects. It takes efficient leadership to formulate and implement effective rules; an engaged, responsible citizenry who appreciate the importance of clean water to ensure compliance; efficient financial management to afford the cost of routine maintenance, and active women’s participation in managing the facility. The latter should include training women to conduct routine maintenance and repair simple faults. This ensures that women, who have the highest stake in a convenient source of clean water, have a direct role in its maintenance. The presence of a strong monitoring system and the availability of timely technical support were also crucial in ensuring successful water projects. These findings demonstrate that while the infrastructure of community water supplies is important, the presence of a strong management system is as vital to their long-term success. This highlights the need to invest in both infrastructure and management of rural water supply projects.