Academic journal article China Perspectives

Providing Access to Water: The Pump, the Spring and the Klu: Brokerage and Local Development on the Tibetan Plateau

Academic journal article China Perspectives

Providing Access to Water: The Pump, the Spring and the Klu: Brokerage and Local Development on the Tibetan Plateau

Article excerpt

In certain rural areas on the Tibetan Plateau, women, sometimes helped by children, devote several hours a day to fetching drinking water for the household. They usually carry the water on their backs, sometimes with the help of a donkey or motorbike. The absence of running water fit for human consumption has a significant Impact on health, the economy, and education at the local level. When several communities share water sources with an Irregular and globally Insufficient flow, water supplies are at the centre of frequent disputes. Water sources that are not easily accessible are the scene of regular accidents, particularly In winter amidst the snow and Ice. But as Drolmatso h) explained to me one day, all these difficulties are only part of the problem for the locals: coming across someone with an empty bucket Is generally Interpreted as a bad omen.

This article examines relationships between administrators and their public within the framework of local development brokerage practices directed at setting up running water systems for domestic consumption In ruralTlbetan areas of Qinghai Province. The projects under study are generally set up at village level and relatively cheap, since part of the cost Is always met by the beneficiaries In the shape of manpower, locally available materials (stone, sand), or more rarely and to a lesser degree, money (see Table 1).

Whilst taking care to avoid any "ideological populism," (3) we use the expression "local development projects" to designate projects whose origin Is "local" In the sense that the project proposal Is not drawn up directly by the donors but Is submitted to them only at a later stage. Although they may sometimes make assessment visits and occasionally attend Inauguration ceremonies for the projects, the donors and their representatives do not take part In the practical Implementation of the projects. It Is clear that the "priorities" of the funders are frameworks that govern the content of these "local" proposals, which are assessed In the light of their compatibility with the specific objectives and budgetary limits governing the activity of the funder. The concept of "local development broker" M appeared as the most appropriate for describing the reality of our research In that It places the emphasis not on a given organisational form, but on an activity. As "players who both draw flows of external aid to rural areas and channel requests for assistance In language developers can underI stand," brokers intervene both within the framework of officially registered or informal associations and as "simple" individuals. We should make clear that the term "broker" is not a native term. The brokers present themselves to the funders as people of local origin wishing to help groups of individuals living in difficult conditions who have the desire but not the financial means to improve their own situation. The way they present themselves to potential project beneficiaries and to the local authorities varies, notably depending on the broker's experience. The situation is very different, for example, between a broker working on a project for the first time, who still has to prove himself, and a broker who has already implemented several projects and has therefore gained a certain local reputation based on his past work. The activity may be voluntary and temporary: certain brokers then turn to other professions. It may also develop into a more formal, sustainable practice, with the founding of an association that may eventually receive grants to cover operating costs. Certain officials move into the non-governmental sphere just as certain brokers, paid by the government, implement projects during their "free time." When describing the relationships between brokers and local authorities one must therefore abandon simplistic oppositions and attempt to understand the complexity of the social fabric that allows them to play a mediating role between different social worlds. …

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