The Millennium Development Goal (MDG)
target on access to drinking water (the “Proportion of population with
sustainable access to an improved water source, urban and rural” and the
“Proportion of urban population with access to improved sanitation”) is now
considered to have been achieved at the global scale (http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/environ.shtml).
However, 768 million people still lack
access to potable water and in sub-Saharan Africa, the numbers without access
actually increased by 63 million between 1990 and 2011 (WHO/UNICEF, 2013).
Skinner (2013) also points out that whilst progress has been made on access to
water, definitions as to what that means are inconsistent. The apparent success
in reaching the access to the water target fails to take into account factors
such as whether the water source is still operational, whether the costs
precludes the poor from accessing it, whether certain groups are denied access
by others and whether marginalised groups who are not officially counted are
included in the official statistics.
Over the past three decades, community management has become
a common model for rural water supply (Schouten and Moriarty, 2003). This
approach first started with community involvement in the construction stage
only, then progressed into community participation through all stages and
finally resulted in community management. In the process, the responsibility
for providing water services gradually shifted from the government to the
In the past decades, adaptation of the community management
model had improved rural water supplies significantly and, presently, it has
become the guiding principle for most rural water supply projects. However,
success stories of community management remained isolated pockets of
achievement (Schouten, 2006). Community management has failed to reach its full
potential on two main counts (Bolt et al., 2006): lack of long-term
sustainability, and lack of larger scale projects.
The role of the
communities in the operation, maintenance and management of rural water
supplies was first described in Sessional Paper No. 1 of 1999 on National
Policy for Water Resources Management and Development. The paper defined the
involvement of communities in project development in all stages including
planning, implementation and operation and maintenance in light of the changing
economic conditions and increasing burden to government. The paper further
recommended institutional steps to be taken to facilitate the role of the
communities in the operation and maintenance of rural water supplies.
Increasing the participation of the communities in project development was
intended to create a sense of ownership of the projects by communities. In line
with the recommendations of the Sessional Paper 1999, operation and maintenance
of rural water supplies has largely been transferred to