Can Collective Action Lead to Sustainable Outcomes in the Provision and Management of Domestic Water in Zimbabwean Urban Areas?

Emmanuel Manzungu, Lindiwe Mangwanya, Vupenyu Dzingirai


This paper investigates prospects for collective action in the provision and management of domestic water in Zimbabwean urban areas in the light of the deteriorating water situation. It interrogates the view that a collective of individuals in a community can be an important resource (social capital) that, together with appropriate institutional design, be harnessed for the good of the community. The paper uses Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, as a case study to test this assumption. Empirical data was collected from two low income suburbs that represented an established suburb and a new suburb that was being developed by a co-operative. In both suburbs collective action has been and continues to be attempted with regards to domestic water provision. The study was undertaken between February and December 2011. Key informants, focus group discussions and participant observation were used to study the dynamics of collection action. There was more evidence of collection action in the newer than in the established suburb. However, the collection action was experiencing problems. The paper discusses the reasons behind this observation. The paper concludes that while collective action seemed desirable and was being attempted, its operationalisation proved to be a challenge, which underlines the need to identify the conditions under which this may work. Understanding the physical and social context of social capital, as well as defining the role of the state, is critical if the benefits of collective action, in the form of sustainable water service outcomes for the residents, are to be realized.

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Journal of Sustainable Development   ISSN 1913-9063 (Print)   ISSN 1913-9071 (Online) Email:

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