Examining the role of social entrepreneurship in water resources users associations in enhancing the management and conservation of water resources
It is expected that as the world population continues to soar, there will be an increased pressure on the available water resources. This study sought to examine the role of social entrepreneurship in water resources users associations (WRUAs) in enhancing the management and conservation of water resources in Kenya. Specifically, the study explored the motivation behind the formation of WRUAs, the sustainability of their social mission and their economic sustainability while at the same time unraveling the opportunities available to them and which were capable of enhancing them to attain their mandate. The study further explored the challenges faced by WRUAs. All this was carried out with the aim of establishing a clear inter-linkage of WRUAs and the concept of social entrepreneurship in order to establish a sustainable social entrepreneurship framework in the management and conservation of water resources. The study was carried out in two catchment areas; Tana and Athi Catchment Basins. It was qualitative in nature and was able to draw the participation of one hundred and thirty five (135) members drawn from fifty three (53) WRUAs and six (6) key informants from institutions that were key players in water management and conservation. While focus group discussion was used to gain insights from the members of the WRUAs, interview schedules were used to gather information from the key informants. Observations in the form of transect walk enabled the study to capture more insights into the operations of the WRUAs. In total, twelve (12) focus group discussions were carried out. The data gathered was analyzed through content analysis and descriptive inferences made out it. The findings of the study reveal that the motivating factors leading to the formation of WRUAs are centered on the conservation and management of water resources at the sub-catchment zones. Such factors include; the need to address environmental degradation, create a sustainable solution to water related conflicts, curb pollution of water resources, address the issues of water scarcity, quality and quantity among others. The WRUAs address these issues by relying on member contribution, annual subscriptions and from funding from Water Resources Management Authority, Water Services Trust Fund and other stakeholders. At the same time, most of the WRUAs in this study had been able to engage in commercial activities in order to raise revenue to sustain their administrative, operation and maintenance expenses. Nevertheless, most of these associations had not been able to realize economic sustainability by the time of this study. The main challenges facing the WRUAs were those of lack of adequate financial capacity leading them to be over reliant on the membership contributions and annual subscriptions as well as funding from government agencies and donations from well wishers, NGOs and other stakeholders. Weak institutional structures and the existence of many overlapping role of government agencies was also another challenge that affected the ability of the WRUAs to be economically sustainable and successful in many of their ventures. The study was able to find out that WRUAs were a valuable component in many sectors of the economy such as agriculture, tourism, energy and were a source of employment to many. Nevertheless, the non-existence of tools to measure the performance and impact of WRUAs was a challenge that negatively impacted on the ability of the value proposition of WRUAs to be clearly articulated. The respondents were of the view that more needs to be done if WRUAs were to become a sustainable venture both economically and socially. To achieve this, the study found the social entrepreneurship concept as one of the best tools of addressing the economic sustainability of the WRUAs.