RESEARCH | Community Participation in Water and Sanitation Service Delivery

Despite the taunted benefits associated with public participation in the water and sanitation sector, challenges still hinder the effective implementation of such initiatives


Prosper Bazaanah | FAR-LeaF Research Fellow

Water and sanitation access is recognised to be essential for the development of the South African economy. Despite the taunted benefits associated with public participation in the water and sanitation sector, challenges still hinder the effective implementation of such initiatives. The findings of a study conducted by FAR-Leaf fellow, Dr Prosper Bazaanah, highlight that the participants are generally dissatisfied with the quality of water and sanitation services due to delays, lack of communication, and inefficient services arising from decades of use of facilities without maintenance.

The existing barriers to decision-making in the water and sanitation sector include funding constraints, lack of awareness and education about the importance of water and sanitation, limited access to information and communication channels, cultural and social norms that discourage participation, and political and economic factors that hinder community involvement. Initiatives that do not recognise the context dependency of these constraints are not likely to be effective because these barriers tend to perpetuate inefficiencies and reproduce humanly induced water scarcity and unsanitary conditions in the municipality.

Overcoming these barriers requires a multi-stakeholder approach that involves government agencies, civil society organisations, and local communities working together to promote public participation in water and sanitation delivery. This will expand engagement beyond the government to include multi-actors like civil society and community actors representing different policy-making interests. In addition, providing the local people with more information about water and sanitation conditions can help to increase their engagement and ensure that their voices are heard in the decision-making process.

The government must prioritise the maintenance and improvement of infrastructure to ensure access to clean water and basic sanitation for all citizens. Future research and initiatives of the municipal authorities should consider redesigning the water supply system to accommodate the growing population, increasing the number of water tanks, and implementing a more efficient distribution system to achieve a more inclusive and sustainable water and sanitation management in the municipality. These areas remained untouched by the current study.

This study examined the impact of community participation on water and sanitation services in the Mantsopa Municipality. Qualitative methods, including interviews with community representatives and municipal officials, were used to gather and analyse data thematically. The results indicated that community involvement can enhance service delivery and improve resident satisfaction. However, the quality of water and sanitation facilities remains a concern due to long-standing maintenance and population growth issues. Barriers to decision-making were identified, including limited funding, public awareness and education, and socio-cultural, political and economic constraints which discouraged participation. Collaboration among government agencies, civil society organizations, and local communities is necessary to overcome these systemic barriers. Municipal authorities should consider the cultural, social, political, and economic factors and drivers at play in redesigning the water supply and sanitation systems to accommodate population growth.

KEYWORDS | Community Participation, Water and Sanitation, Mantsopa Local Municipality, South Africa



The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) is a fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.