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Water point sustainability and the unintended impacts of community management in Malawi

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conference contribution
posted on 2018-02-12, 15:10 authored by Ellie Chowns
This paper reports the findings of a mixed methods study of 679 randomly sampled water points in four districts in Malawi. The study a) tested the influence of ten proximate determinants of water point functionality, and b) critically examined the social, economic and political dynamics underlying these factors, especially the community management model. The data shows that the key influences on sustainability are water point type and installation quality (technical factors) and availability of funds, skills, and incidence of theft (management factors). Misuse of funds by water point committees emerges as a particular problem. These results are driven by the way that community management structures interact with socially embedded institutions and power dynamics. The findings challenge the assumptions of efficiency and empowerment that underpin the community management model, and show that in fact it frequently generates conflict and reproduces inequality at community level.



  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering

Research Unit

  • Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC)

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WEDC Conference


CHOWNS, E., 2015. Water point sustainability and the unintended impacts of community management in Malawi. IN: Shaw, R.J. (ed). Water, sanitation and hygiene services beyond 2015 - Improving access and sustainability: Proceedings of the 38th WEDC International Conference, Loughborough, UK, 27-31 July 2015, 6pp.


© WEDC, Loughborough University


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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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  • en

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