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How can INGOs help promote sustainable rural water services? An analysis of WaterAid’s approach to supporting local governments in Mali 

Stephen Jones 
Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, UK; stephenjones27@gmail.com

ABSTRACT: This paper examines how the international NGO WaterAid supports decentralised local governments in Mali to fulfil their role of service authorities within a service delivery approach for rural water services. WaterAid provides capacity support to local governments by creating and financing municipal WASH Technical Units that, in turn, provide direct support to community management of rural water supply. The paper compares this model to another approach for supporting rural water service providers in Mali in terms of the activities, scale and costs of direct support provided through each model.

The paper finds that the model of WASH Technical Units promoted by WaterAid provides a more comprehensive set of support activities than the alternative approach suggested in national policy. The costs of the Technical Units are within international benchmarks for the expenditure on direct support suggested to be necessary for basic sustainable rural water services, but it is not yet clear how local governments in Mali can finance the costs of such an approach in the long term. Therefore, greater debate is needed in the national water sector about which aspects of support to rural water service providers are most important and what combination of actors can provide and finance this support.

KEYWORDS: Rural water supply, service delivery, direct support, life-cycle costs approach, WaterAid , Mali