The role of social actors in water access in Sub-Saharan Africa: Evidence from Malawi and Zambia

Elsevier, Water Resources and Rural Development, Volume 8, November 2016, Pages 25-36.
Authors: 
Ted Scanlon, Obinna Ugurua, Tahseen Jafry, Blessings Chinsinga, Peter Mvula, Joseph Chunga, Lilian Mukuka Zimba, Mwansa Mwape, Lucy Nyundo, Brian Mwiinga and Kevin Chungu.

Access to water in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) continues to be a challenge to the extent that there are more people without access to water in 2015 than in 1990. This indicates that current approaches to water provision have been ineffective. Governments have failed to provide a structure, mechanisms or approaches that guarantee water for ALL, resulting in a vacuum which has been ‘filled’ by a number of social actors (NGOs, Faith Based Organisations, Donors). This paper examines the social actors involved in water access and provision in Malawi and Zambia, analysing the existing methods and approaches used by them in the sector. It seeks increased understanding of the contributions and the nature of influence of each social actor group. This was achieved by collecting data on socialactors through a combination of methods: focus group discussions, semi-structured interviews and workshops. Social actor analyses of the data shaped the findings. The findings indicate that water provision is multifaceted requiring improved coordination and cooperation among social actors to streamline and focus on the provision of for ALL. It draws attention to the need for Governments to take a leading role by facilitating long term investment in the sector and promoting initiatives which incorporate the right to water access. It concludes that in order to achieve universal access to water, a new perception of rights and responsibilities is vital in communities, donors, NGOs and the public sector as one step towards reducing the number of people without water in the future.