'With or against the flow'

Water governance in Goma, DRC

Research project hosted by LSE’s Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa

Principal Investigator: Tim Allen
Co-investigtor: Patrycia Stys
Co-investigtor: Tom Kirk
Co-investigtor: Duncan Green

‘Water is a big problem here. Household members are forced to get up at 2am and wait in line until morning when the person who sells water arrives at 5:30am.



DRC water boat

The project examines households’ daily management, financial governance, access to water and other basic social services in the city of Goma, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It uses an innovative mix of social network research, ethnography and governance diaries to gain in-depth data to reveal how residents navigate public authority in an insecure environment and cope with unforeseen shocks.

The data is collected every two weeks by five Congolese researchers over a period of eleven months. Project leads will analyse the data using complementary qualitative and quantitative approaches, yielding a range of outputs from co-authored academic articles to policy briefs and blogs written by researchers. A paper examining the political economy of water services in Goma will also be researched and written in mid-2019.



Tim Allen is Director of the Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa and Professor in Development Anthropology at LSE. He is currently the PI for the five-year ESRC-funded Centre for Public Authority and International Development.

Email: t.allen@lse.ac.uk


Thomas Kirk is a researcher and consultant based at LSE. His research interests include the provision of security and justice in conflict-affected regions, social accountability, civil society, local governance and public authority.

Email: t.kirk@lse.ac.uk

Pat Stys

Dr Patrycja Stys is a Research Officer at the Centre for Public Authority and International Development. She is working on networked dynamics of governance and cyclic violent and non-violent mobilisation in Central Africa.

Email: p.m.stys@lse.ac.uk

Duncan mugshot 2017

Dr Duncan Green is Senior Strategic Adviser at Oxfam GB and author of 'How Change Happens' and 'From Poverty to Power'. He also wrties for and edits the blog From Poverty to Power.

Email: d.j.green@lse.ac.uk



Three quarters of the DRC's population lack access to clean drinking water. Alongside disease, the burden of collecting water from distant government-run taps often falls to children and women. When these taps fail in the city of Goma, households can be forced to turn to expensive ‘water-truck mafias’, untreated collected rain water or to leverage nearby Lake Kivu.

In early 2018, Mercy Corps DRC representatives approached LSE CPAID researcher Dr Pat Stys to conduct research on an ongoing WASH programme which has built new water taps in Goma. With a team of international and local researchers, Pat uses a mixture of social network research and financial diaries to study whether the taps have changed the lives of people living in 28 households in some of the city’s lower socio-economic neighbourhoods.

Economic and social impact

The project has trained five Congolese researchers to use an innovative mixture of social network research and financial diaries to understand how households manage their resources. They visit the households once every two weeks over 11 months to collect in-depth data to reveal the water taps’ effects, by comparing the experiences of those with access to those without.

The project aims to discover whether households with access to taps are better able to plan financially due to the steady supply and lower costs of water, and whether they are better able to use their resources and networks to cope with unexpected shocks, such as ill-health or other great expenses. Our findings will inform Mercy Corps' intended scale-up of their programme to Bukavu, DRC and investment in schemes such as independent savings co-operatives. 


Papy Muzuri

Papy Muzuri is an independent researcher and collaborator with CPAID at LSE. He has conducted social network research in the eastern DRC since 2016, focusing on the dynamics of armed groups, processes of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, and governance in so-called rebel-held territories.

Samuel Muhindo new

Samuel Muhindo is an independent researcher and collaborator at LSE’s CPAID. In addition to access to social services in the DRC, his research focuses on dynamics of higher education institutions, micro-economies of rural areas, and the politics of humanitarian actors in urban metropolises.

Ishara Tchumisi

Ishara Tchumisi is an independent researcher with the CPAID at LSE. His research focuses on the politics of water governance and how household gender relations in Goma, DRC, are affected by prolonged shocks such as unemployment.

Sandrine N’simire

Sandrine N’simire is an independent researcher affiliated with CPAID at LSE. She is a methodologist who developed the Masahani Method of material allocation to collect data on household water usage. Her research interests also include relations of trust between respondents and researchers.

Bauma Balume

Bauma Balume, a lawyer by training, is a collaborator at CPAID at LSE. His research examines patterns of accessing social services, focusing on Goma’s most vulnerable residents. He is also interested in magic and the occult in the modern world and its manifestations in daily life and impacts on research, researchers, and the researched. 


Policy briefs

Journal papers

Working papers



The project is jointly funded by Mercy Corps and the Centre for Public Authority and International Development. The former provides funding for the Congolese researchers and expenses in the DRC, and the latter the salaries of Pat Stys, Tom Kirk and Duncan Green.



The Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa promotes independent academic research and teaching, open and issue-oriented debate, and evidence-based policy making, in partnership with Africa to bring African voices to the global debate.



The Centre for Public Authority and International Development explores how forms of public authority shape and are shaped by interlocking global challenges with risks and opportunities for development and inclusive growth.


Mercy corps

Mercy Corps is a global humanitarian organisation empowering people to recover from crisis, build better lives and transform their communities for good.