Institutional Diversity in Collective Action: Investigating Successful Village Level Maintenance of Hand Pumps in Malawi

  • Author / Creator
    Joubert, Brian Anthony
  • Providing clean water to rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa remains a challenge. Unsanitary and distant water sources cause a host of health and humanitarian problems. A common means of remedying this situation has been the donation of improved water sources, fitted with low-cost hand pumps. Due donor capacity and/ or policy most hand pumps are donated under the guise of Village Level Operation and Maintenance (VLOM). This premises the notion that recipient communities will take ownership of the new pump and as such will ensure its maintenance. To assist with this many donors carry out programs of technical repair training and the structuring of in-village leadership and management groups. The reality is that a high proportion of these pumps break down after donation and cease to work thereafter. Measures to redress technical elements of these failures through increased training or adequate distribution of spares has seen some success but failure rates remains high.
    This has led to a call for more attention to demand side issues, focusing on the communal aspects that may influence a village to act collectively in the maintenance of its hand pump. This thesis researched five Malawian villages where the community had maintained their hand pumps for a period of 10 or more years.
    These hand pumps were treated as shared resources and the literature on common-pool resources and social institutions was used as a theoretical framework. Applying these theories proved to be appropriate for analyzing the norms, conventions and forms of cooperative conduct. This allowed the research to gain insights into institutional diversity and the relationship between ‘formal institutions’, most often exogenous in nature, and informal’ or customary collective action institutions embedded within the communities.
    Findings showed the emergence of three predominant themes within these successful case studies: 1) the role of leadership at varying levels and how it is embodied institutionally as a vehicle to drive collective action; 2) the contextual norms around rules, monitoring and punishment and; 3) how it should not be assumed that cases of successful pump maintenance necessarily guarantee gender ‘empowerment’, as is often touted by water development proposals.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2014
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.