Our offer to maintain the pump for 3 years was meant as an incentive for the villages to save. Some villages took advantage of the offer and tried to save, but most did not, so we looked for more effective ways to encourage savings. Josie's PhD project is about rural development issues and she did a study to learn why some villages saved and others did not. She is from the area and speaks the local language, so she held interviews with individuals and separate focus groups of men and women in the villages to learn about people's attitudes about the need for having a working pump. Speaking the language to women individually and in groups gave her the opportunity to hear opinions that would not have been said if men had been present or if she had to use an interpreter. A report on the study and its results will be submitted to professional journal in the future.
The study showed that strong community leadership has influence but many villages do not have such leaders. The villages are small, so people know each other well and try to avoid conflicts. Further, there are no laws to compel people to pay for water, so if some refuse to pay, the only recourse is to shame them in public. That creates conflict and is seldom done; argument and negotiation are more often used.
The gender balanced water committees were intended to deal with such issues, but they seldom work because men usually dominate the meetings. The women's opinions are generally ignored, even though they have the responsibility for collecting water for their families.
However, it was also clear that women liked having a pump nearby and that they used the time and energy saved by not having to walk far to fetch water to work at the family farm, engage in petty trading, sell cooked food, or other activities to help the family finances. This was particularly important for the many women who were raising children by themselves.
There is a long-standing opinion among workers in rural water supply that for a water system to be sustainable, women should be involved in its management. The results of our study implied that the enthusiasm of the women for having a working pump could be used to encourage communities to take ownership of their pumps. The problem has always been how to make that happen, given the traditional roles of men and women in such communities.