Social and ecological factors affecting the performance of community-based water organizations in Central America

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Community-based Water Organizations (CWOs) are the most important providers of water and sanitation in rural and peri-urban areas of Latin America. However, many suffer from financial and organizational problems that hinder their ability to consistently deliver water and sanitation services, which in turn constrains the development of poor communities. This research seeks to determine what institutional, environmental and climatic conditions affect the performance of CWOs. Furthermore, it seeks to examine under which climatic, environmental and socioeconomic conditions successful institutions emerge within CWOs for water and sanitation management. This proposal builds on a very rich and unique multi-country large-sample dataset (3 Central American countries, 7000 CWOs approximately, great diversity in ecological/climatic conditions).  Most of the literature on CWOs is built around case studies and focuses on the role of institutions on performance. This research project provides greater external validity challenges than previous work and exploits variation in both institutional and ecological drivers of rural water delivery. The findings will generate recommendations for improving the performance of CWOs and hence, for the achievement of SDGs, particularly in poor locations of Central American countries. In addition, this study will explicitly assess the importance of women's participation in decision-making positions within CWOs and how this can influence water delivery outcomes in rural areas. 

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Financed by
Environment for Development initiative
Project | 11 December 2023