Conflict and collaboration - water resources in Angola’s post-war cities
After more than four decades of war,
has been in the recovery phase since 2002. The war resulted in mass displacement of people, destruction of infrastructure, and diversion of investments away from maintenance and infrastructure development, which have produced chronic public health problems. In addition, social exclusion, inequality and poverty - problems that originally seeded the conflict - are still rife in the post-war era. Angola
informal vendors Access to water through
|Informal water provider in Angola|
Credit: Tim Hetherington
Access to water reflects the biased distribution pattern of other resources in
. The majority of low-income, urban communities still have no permanent access to affordable potable water and are mainly served by informal water vendors. In Development Workshop's more than thirty years' experience of implementing practical projects in Angola Angola, it has gathered a lot of knowledge on the functioning of this informal water economy that continues to provide the bulk of water services to the population of , the country’s capital. DW estimates that the annual value of the informal water economy has grown from about US$60 million during the war to almost US$250 million in 2012. Luanda
Turning community conflict over water into collaboration
In this environment of uneven and inequitable access to scarce urban water resources, conflict born out of competition for access to water is inevitable. However, poor communities in
have found collective solutions and built on neighbourhood cooperation and social solidarity to improve their access. These experiences demonstrate the important role that community water management can play in promoting a more equitable distribution of water resources at affordable prices in the poor peri-urban musseque settlements of Luanda . the city
Relationships as a ‘currency’ for water
In such an environment, neighbourhood water access and prices are not determined solely by commercial factors - social relationships and community solidarity play an important role. For example, householders who possess a water tank are in a position to choose not only the price but also the neighbours to whom they wish to sell. The price of water often varies, depending on the relationship between the owner of the tank and the buyer, often being lower for people with whom they have built a relationship or mutual solidarity (Lindblom, 2010).
However, home water tank owners do not always have sufficient capital on hand to buy a truckload of water every time their tank becomes empty. Until they can accumulate such a lump sum, they may themselves become consumers of water from other tank owners in the neighbourhood. Social networks evolve locally among neighbours, who may be both buyers and sellers at different times. It thus becomes essential for each water consumer in a poor, unserviced musseque to maintain amicable social relationships with a range of water suppliers within walking distance of their homes.
The above post is an abstract from a chapter of a forthcoming book by Allan Cain. Please email BPD at info[at]bpdws.org for further details.