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Title: Water risks and institutional change in Kenya
Author: Koehler, Johanna Karolina Louise
ISNI:       0000 0004 7652 9269
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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Global progress towards the goal of universal, safely managed drinking water services will be shaped by the dynamic relationship between the risks faced by water users and decision-makers, their perceptions of these risks, and the institutions that exist to manage them. This thesis argues such progress may be facilitated through pluralist arrangements that reallocate risks and responsibilities between the state, market, and community. The question of how water institutions transform to manage water risks more effectively and deliver sustainable water services to the rural poor is examined in the context of Kenya's water sector. Two processes of institutional transformation are at the centre of this investigation: devolution leading to the establishment of 47 county governments and the concurrent professionalisation of rural water services. The uptake of new institutional arrangements and the subsequent paths of institutional change depend on risk perceptions and management responses. This research is grounded in conceptual and theoretical frameworks pertaining to the overarching themes of risks influencing public, collective and individual choices; institutional pluralism providing a dynamic approach that allows risks to be pooled; and institutional persistence through processes of homogenisation and regime change. These frameworks are empirically tested through a survey with all 47 county water ministries in the first devolved county governments, a 3,500-household panel survey in coastal Kenya from 2013-2016, and case studies of three professional service providers for the maintenance of rural water infrastructure. Advancing a sociopolitical risk model drawing on public choice theory, the thesis shows that high socioclimatic risks, budgetary allocations, and narrow election margins are likely to boost devolved decision-makers' perceptions of responsibility for improved water service delivery. Considering criteria of quantity, quality, accessibility, and non-discrimination, results also reveal that county water ministries recognise their responsibility to serve the poor and those outside current provision areas. Such areas are further scrutinised by applying cultural theory of risk to rural waterpoint management and assessing the operationalisation of pluralist arrangements in the form of a professional maintenance service model through networking different management cultures at scale. The findings reveal that the main factors influencing rural water users to contract the professional provider are organisational and water use factors, affordability concerns over previous arrangements, and operational factors including distance, as well as water quality. These factors vary across user-group and individual-household levels and across management cultures. The thesis presents a framework combining institutional isomorphism and cultural theory to gain insights into the theoretical tension between homogenisation and pluralism and how it is reflected in the practical tension between the professionalisation of services and local diversity. While county government uptake of the water service mandate remains variable, this thesis shows how new professional models can fill certain service gaps in rural areas. However, their sustainability depends on community and state uptake and hence the alignment of their core principles of efficiency, equity, and enforcement. Devolution thus represents a natural institutional experiment for examining the interplay of individual, collective and public choices in navigating different institutional preferences of managing risk and paving progress towards affordable and equitable drinking water services.
Supervisor: Hope, Rob Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council ; Clarendon Fund ; Natural Environment Research Council ; UK Department for International Development
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: development ; environment ; geography