Water resources and services in Burkina Faso and Indonesia. Dynamics of construction and politicization of a territorialized common. Case studies in Burkina Faso and Indonesia

By Catherine Baron, Muriel Maillefert

This article focuses on the definition of water resources and water services as commons. The literature review shows a compartmentalization in the analysis of water issues. This leads to a disconnection between water resources and water services analyses on the one hand, and between rural and urban approaches of water issues, on the other hand. This article aims to discuss how the concept of commons can reconnect these fields. Most of the academic research on water as a common is based on the Hardin/Ostrom controversy and do not question the economic vision of water as a common. We aim to deconstruct this vision. First, we identify three representations of the commons: the commons as a good, the commons as a social construction and the commons as an ongoing process. Considering water commons as an ongoing process, we then identify the three main components of water commons: technical devices (infrastructures), uses and governance. In reference to this conceptual framework, we interpret disruptive situations related to the complex articulation between these three components. These water conflicts are analyzed from this point of view in two different contexts in Burkina Faso (Africa) and Indonesia. The politization of the commons appears as a key issue to understand commons as an ongoing process. Politization implies to take into consideration the values and goals that guide collective action. A comparative analysis of our two case studies in Burkina Faso and Indonesia is proposed to discuss the role of values in this context. We consider that a recurrent cause of conflicts comes from the exogenous dimension of the values that guide collective action in the water sector. Indeed, when they are exogenous, values can come into friction with previous organizations, practices, rules and customs. Our case studies point out the importance of organizational and technical devices that structure uses and governance modes.

  • commons
  • urban water service
  • water resources
  • politization
  • Burkina Faso
  • Indonesia
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