Achieving ‘water for all’ whilst ensuring the sustainable management of water resources is a global priority under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 6), and increasingly urgent in the context of rapid population growth and climate change. Despite the significant progress made to date in increasing access to clean water, many communities in rural Africa have been left behind. They still lack clean water for the most basic of needs, such as drinking and washing. Evidence suggests that even where water points have been constructed (eg, a well with a hand pump) many break down prematurely, due to complex technical and socio-political factors.
In the context of decentralised governance, addressing these problems necessitates a better understanding how people on the frontline of service delivery interpret and go about implementing water policies. Using ethnographic methods, this research seeks to understand the values and everyday practices of different actors at district-level, in the context of Malawi. It will explore the constraints these actors face (be they financial, political or social) and the diverse strategies they employ in ‘getting the job done’. It is hoped that the research findings will help to inform future policy-making and practice in the rural water supply sector, particularly the tailoring of support to frontline actors.