Equity in rural water resource development and management : A case study of Kilombero Valley, Tanzania, and the investments delivered by a participatory and demand-driven NGO

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Institutionen för naturgeografi


The demand-driven and participatory approach to water resource development and management in Tanzania has been both praised and criticized; some see progress where others see increased inequalities. This study focuses on one progressive, demand-driven NGO which has a participatory approach to water resource development and management. This NGO, MSABI, is active in Kilombero Valley in southern Tanzania, and can be considered successful as it manages to keep 91 % of its water points functional, whilst the national average for pump functionality is just above 50 %.

To study the performance of MSABI from a user perspective, it was decided that two sites in Kilombero Valley should be investigated in terms of users’ views on water access and quality. The identification of sites is based on population density and landcover change, so that the issues of scale and urban bias, as well as changes in the landscape affecting hydrological processes, are accounted for. In total, 29 interviews were conducted (October to November 2014), 15 at the Ifakara study site, the more densely populated location, and 14 at the Mchombe Ward study site. The interviews were semi-structured, using a participatory approach, focusing on users’ perspectives on water sources and the access to and quality of those water sources in dry and rainy seasons. The information gathered was used to construct definitions for water access and quality. These definitions, as well as the two locations and categorization of participants according to socio-economic status, were then used to sort and analyse the collected material.

The results show that MSABI does not manage to make water accessible in an equitable way because of its demand-driven and participatory approach to water resource development and management. However, MSABI offers the only improved water source at the Mchombe Ward study site, except for one improved open well. MSABI manages to counter urban-bias better than any of the other water resource development and management facilitators encountered at the two study sites. The seasons influence water access, especially at the more peripheral locations, where improved water sources are less common and, as open water sources, are more prone to drought and contamination. When participants in Ifakara seasonally migrate for farming, during 4-5 months per year, the majority’s access to improved water sources is lost. At the distant seasonal fields, open water sources are more common and few report that they treat the unsafe water. The migration to peripheral farmlands coincides with the rainy season, causing open water sources to have their lowest water quality when seasonal migrants utilize them. This underlines the importance of securing safe water supply for people at remote locations, and the important role MSABI plays as water resource developer at those locations.

In conclusion, if the current demand-driven and participatory approach to water resource development and management is to be retained, regardless of the heavy criticism it has received with regards to equity, this study suggests that the practices of MSABI should be spread further based on MSABI’s ability to increase safe water access at remote locations. Another recommendation is to further look into the effects of seasonal migration on access to safe water. The effect seasonal migration has on water access in Kilombero could exist in other areas in Tanzania or in other countries. The aspect of seasonal migration might show that water access statistics are misleading, as the seasonal water consumption in remote locations risks being omitted in official statistics. 

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