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Water is a basic human need and is essential for human survival

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Water is a basic human need and is essential for human survival. Access to clean quality water leads to improved health. Significant human labor would be lost when humans fall ill and even deaths occur due to waterborne diseases. Therefore, there’s need for people to access water in adequate quantities and free of pathogenic organisms.
International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation decade of 1981 to 1990 brought to the international stage that 1.8 billion people globally lacked safe drinking water. Africa was the most affected with only 22% of those in rural areas able to access safe drinking water. With the slogan ‘Water and Sanitation for All’ the international community, rallied governments, private sector and international donors who helped and attempted in the provision of water for the developing countries.
Member States of the United Nations met in September 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and agreed on the 17 Goals among them is Goal number 6 (SDG 6) which aims to ‘Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’. On the same, regarding water accessibility, the Constitution of Kenya (2010) bestows on every individual the right to clean and safe water in adequate quantities. Globally, JMP (2017) reports that as at the year 2015, 29% of the global population, that is, 2.1 billion people lacked safely managed drinking water services, resulting in significant health and economic losses for countries across the globe. Locally, it is quite sad that Siaya county is at the bottom 10 counties with access to improved water. Only 36% of the population in the County has access to improved water. While the percentage of the population with access to piped water remains at 6.6% (KNBS ; SID, 2013, pg. 273).
Concept of Sustainability
Project sustainability is a major challenge not only in Kenya, but also in many developing countries. African governments are more concerned with new projects rather than maintaining the existing projects, consequently these development projects tend to have a shorter life span compared to project’s design. We can thus conclude that this shows inadequate mechanisms put in place for project sustainability. Most of the development projects implemented at huge amounts often tend to experience difficulties with sustainability, this is due to high cost of maintenance of the same projects. Oino, Towett, Kirui and Luvega (2015) highlight donors such as the World Bank, DFID, USAID and other bilateral aid agencies that they have been expressing concerns on project sustainability.
Looking at rural water supply projects, we can see an enduring risk of the lack of effective approaches towards asset management, performance monitoring and regulatory oversight, which community water managers have struggled to address effectively at scale: Village management committees were not legally recognized, lacked the necessary skills, and did not apply formal management practices, the schemes often failed or were simply abandoned. (Hope & Rousse, 2013).
Describing the water situation in Siaya County, Lake Victoria South Water Service Board report in 2017 cites among other challenges low revenue mobilization from Water Service Providers due to operational challenges, and high operational costs and water-supply disruptions due to power disconnections at WSPs level. These challenges have potential to affect sustainability of community piped water supply projects in the county. In addition to the water situation in Siaya County, non-revenue water is at 53%, this means that half of the water produced cannot be accounted for either through illegal connection, leakages or wastages. (WASREB, 2016). This points to water management, and monitoring and evaluation issues that could explain the unsustainability of the affected water projects.
Lutewe dam water project is in a largely rural area of Alego, Siaya County. The dam was constructed in 2014 with a design capacity of 70000m3 to serve 8000 beneficiaries. Currently though operational the dam’s fence has been vandalized and the dam is facing threat of siltation which may hamper its operation in the near future.
The concept of Community participation
Community participation is a process where community members engage in social and or development activities and actively involve each other to make decisions on those issues that affect them. Community members through such participation have control of their own welfare.
There is sufficient information on research and best practices in conducting successful participation and engagement processes. As Bergstrom, Rose, Olinger and Holley (2014) puts it, tools and methods designed to increase participation in planning and policy decision making are becoming ubiquitous, especially with the rise in popularity of participatory governance, open government, and interactive Web 2.0 platform. Consequently, we can see that in the recent time, there has been interest in community participation throughout the world which is premised on the perceived benefits that community participation brings to programs in terms of added efficiency, sustainability, and collective community power (Imperiale ; Pian, 2013).
In achieving developments, governments, private sector and NGOs funding projects are encouraged to involve the local community not only for security and ownership reasons but also to ensure projects’ sustainability is met. Recognition of the local community is evidently a shift away from state-led, top-down, model of economic development. Therefore, engaging community in this manner, coincides with democratization movements.
During the colonial period in Africa, community participation in public development projects was quite reduced. It was typical of colonial governments to limit the rights and freedoms of Africa. This top-down approach was also inherited by the African governments in the immediate post-colonial era. In most cases, Rodney (1981) argues community participation would mainly manifest in the form of provision of manual labor and other material resources – particularly land – by the local communities to projects. Local communities did not participate in decision making regarding the issues that were affecting them. Development projects such water projects were imposed to local communities. Community participation was not fully integrated in development projects. The Top-down participation approach adopted by the governments ignored local and cultural knowledge. Instead solely appreciated ‘expert’ scientific knowledge. This model was exclusionary and unrepresentative in nature. This could explain why many projects planned and implemented immediately in post-colonial period either stalled or broke down or were not sustained after completion and withdrawal of financial support.
Community participation in development projects has been gradually expanding in Kenya. In the year 2010, Kenya adopted a new constitution which ushered in a new dawn regarding citizen participation in development projects (GoK, 2010); for it has expanded the space within which communities can engage in public development projects. This has been possible due to the gradual expansion of democratic space in Kenya over the decades that enabled the enactment of the new constitution in 2010.
Sherman and Ford (2014) agree that there has been a gradual expansion in the opportunity for community participation in development projects over the decades and this is informed by the importance of community participation on project outputs. Participation often leads to better use of resources in meeting the needs of the community. The community decide which projects are of priority and significance to them, where to implement these projects, how to implement them as well as who deserve them. Through community participation, community members are brought together to define common goals and they are provided with resources and support. By engaging community, they will be empowered, and it will increase capacity for local development and governance and improve social cohesion. (Hassan, Ong’ayo, Osore, Morara ; Aura, 2017). Participation of the community in the piped water supply project will ensure available resources are properly managed at community level, making the water project continue to function long after outside support is withdrawn.
From the literature reviewed, that there has been expansion of community participation in community development projects. Kadurenge, Nyonje, Onguko, and Ndunge, (2016) found that in Kenya today, stakeholder participation is much more beneficial to the local citizens and more sustainable compared to the colonial times. Despite this we still have community development projects that are failing or not performing to capacity.
Community participation in Siaya County
There is little research done on community participation in Alego, Siaya County, pertaining to sustainability of rural piped water supply projects. This could be explained by the fact that the practice of assessing community participation in rural areas in Kenya is very rare. Therefore, this research proposal seeks to contribute knowledge in this area.
Knowledge Gap
Many researchers, policy makers and scholars have studied various aspects of community participation in various sectors, including water sustainability especially in urban areas, however there’s no single research done to link community participation to sustainability of rural piped water supply in this region in Siaya County.
While several studies have been done on sustainability of community projects and community participation, no study has been done on sustainability of rural piped water projects at the Lutewe dam water project in Alego, Siaya County, specifically looking at how its influenced by community participation in project selection, management of water supply, and monitoring and evaluation. It is this knowledge gap that informs the basis of this study proposal