Department of Geography and GIS Brown Bag: Understanding the Underlying Factors that Influence Borehole/Handpump Functionality: A Political Economy Analysis
Abstract: Water development is recognised as key to Malawi’s socio-economic development, and the provision of water and sanitation services is thought to make a significant contribution to public health, as well as impacting on children’s education and household productivity. Yet, the provision and supply of potable water remains a challenge, especially in rural Malawi including the Lake Chilwa Basin. Using the political economy analysis, this presentation investigates important systemic factors constraining rural groundwater supply in Malawi, and proceeds to examine in more detail the actors involved, their interests and influence on service delivery sector performance including policy environment, borehole siting, and water point sustainability. Findings show that partial decentralisation of service delivery, significant human and financial resource constraints (particularly at district level), and the influence of politics and patronage over planning and implementation are the major systemic factors hindering the supply of groundwater in rural Malawi. Findings also show that major actors in the rural groundwater supply include national and district government offices or departments, development partners and (I)NGOs, the private sector, and to a lesser extent local communities. Finally, in relation to siting process, findings show that local power dynamics do affect borehole/handpump siting decisions within a community, even where technical criteria and social criteria are prioritised by the implementing agency.
About the speaker: Evance Mwathunga, PhD is a lecturer and former head in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at Chancellor College of the University of Malawi. He holds a Master of Science in Urban and Region Planning from Heriot Watt University (Scotland) and a PhD in Geography and Environmental Studies from Stellenbosch University in South Africa. His research interests are in the areas of urban geography, planning, and geographies of development including water governance. He has over 14 years of experience of teaching and research on settlement planning and production of space in the cities of the global south, groundwater governance, and rural development. Currently, he is a principal investigator on international projects, namely: UPGro Hidden Crisis: unravelling current failures for future success in rural groundwater supply (with British Geological Survey and a consortium of universities in Africa, Australia and Europe); and Social cash transfers, generational relations and youth poverty trajectories in rural Lesotho and Malawi (involving a consortium of universities in Europe, UK and Africa). Outside teaching, he is a planning commissioner for the National Planning Commission for Malawi, a statutory entity mandated to spearhead development priorities for Malawi and oversee the implementation of the country’s medium to long term development vision, strategies, and priorities.