Accepted paper:

Learning and capacity-building in water supply in poor cities: how do these long term processes respond to intermittent funding?


Susana Neves Alves (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the challenges related to long term processes such as learning and capacity-building in highly volatile contexts faced by grassroots organisations involved in service provision.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the workings of the association that took over the management of the piped water supply system in a small secondary city in West Africa - Bafatá, Guinea-Bissau. Created after a city cleaning campaign with the aim of bringing together a number of people willing to continue working on similar initiatives, this association eventually took over the management of the city's water system. Without previous experience or knowledge, this association managed to build links with key actors - state and international NGOs - that helped the association to build its capacity to run the city's water system and to access funds required to refurbish and expand infrastructure. In this paper, I discuss this process in terms of the links between this association and a range of state and non-state actors and how this process transformed the ways in which key actors perceive service delivery in the national context. While such grassroot initiatives are highly adaptable and able to work in volatile conditions, they also struggle to mobilise resources and are highly susceptible to project funding cycles. This article argues that one key challenge is therefore to ensure that long processes related to learning and capacity building do not dissolve into nothing for lack of resources and the need of those involved to move somewhere else in order to make a living.

panel Env12
Taking the initiative in African cities: grassroots responses to rapid and mismanaged urbanisation