Water The 1950s pump, mass manufactured in London, and found broken in George compound Lusaka is a testament to the recurring, unsolved problems of infrastructure design and provision synonymous with and symbolising urban poverty.
In 1993 I first visited Zambia to lead on an Urban Poverty Assessment for the World Bank. The assessment was innovative in that it was largely carried out using participative appraisal methods. These supported urban residents in mapping their own assets and networks as a step in defining ways that aid might be better targeted both nationally and locally. The findings led to the re-definition of the Zambia Urban Restructuring and Water Supply project.
The Water project as originally conceived aimed to rehabilitate the existing water networks through engineering work. The Urban Poverty Assessment enabled us to prove that such a project would only further distort equitable service provision since up to 60 percent of the urban population were not served by formal water and sanitation services and would not benefit. 13 percent of the credit (approximately US$ 5.5 million) was reassigned to rethinking water provision in low-income areas of Lusaka and the Copperbelt cities.
The low-income component had social and technical objectives. Standardised engineering solutions (the 1950s pump) tend to go hand in hand with standardised approaches to institution building that ignore the social aspects completely leading to unsustainable solutions. In this case the project we developed laid down no guidelines for either the technical or the organisational components. Communities could design their own projects and maintenance arrangements, with support. The emphasis was on relational networks as opposed to formal community organisations.