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Rural self-empowerment: the case of small water supply management in Northwest, Cameroon

  • Henry Bikwibili TantohEmail author
  • Tracey J. M. McKay


Although water is critical for human wellbeing, being able to access a reliable supply of water remains a major challenge affecting rural communities in the developing world. Regrettably, most governments of the developing world have not managed to provide potable water to their rural communities. In some cases, such communities have had to build and manage their own water systems. This study examines one such case in rural Northwest Cameroon. It was found that the community, despite its meagre resources, had mobilized themselves, contributing money and labour to establish their own small scale water system. As a result, some 34% of households now have a private water connection, while 66% use communal taps. Despite this, some still relied on streams, springs and wells. Although households with private water connections consumed more water than those using communal taps, overall water consumption levels were still below acceptable universal standards. In addition, many residents still had to walk a considerable distance to collect water. What is more, there is no evidence that the water provided to households is safe to drink. Thus, although this community demand-driven approach improved access to water, all households could still be considered ‘water poor’. In addition, operational and maintenance challenges associated with the water supply systems impede long-term community health and development. Thus, while such small water supply systems are providing an essential lifeline of water to poor rural communities, the existing network needs to be upgraded and extended if full access to appropriate piped water is to be accomplished in rural Northwest Cameroon.


Accessibility Small water supply management Community-based organizations Rural Cameroon 



We thank the participants for their contributions to this research and particularly. Special thanks for the financial assistance of the National Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences-Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (NIHSS-CODESRIA) and to Prof Danny Simatele.

Compliance with ethical standard

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human participants

This research involved human participants and their consent were sought for the studies. Both authors consent to this submission and they have all contributed significantly in writing-up the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental Sciences, College of Agriculture and Environmental SciencesUniversity of South AfricaPretoriaSouth Africa

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