For rural Tanzanians, water has a social value too

by Lena Farré, recent Post-Graduate from University of Basel, Switzerland, summarises the findings of her Masters degree thesis

This exploratory case study carried out in the Kilombero Valley in southwestern Tanzania shows the mechanisms and challenges communities of a rural village face while seeking water access and maintaining their water pumps. The Tanzanian Government and non-governmental organizations follow a Demand Responsive Approach (DRA). According to the water source providers, communities should demand, own, and maintain their water sources as well as contribute to implementing costs in cash or labour. This participatory approach has been criticised to shift the states responsibility to provide water service towards the community level. To design better policies for interventions that will ensure a sustainable and equitable water provision, it is necessary to understand how communities themselves perceive and deal with this implemented community management system. Here, three key findings are presented, which must be taken stronger into consideration when formulating recommendations for practitioners, since they have been found in other case studies as well.

1.      Women bear the most time and physical strength consuming tasks

While men mostly get the leading position within a water source committee, the role of the secretary or treasurer is mainly given to women. Women are responsible for the house-to-house monthly fee collection from the families using the water sources. Most social conflicts between the committees and the water source users are linked to the monetary contribution. This results in women being directly exposed to these conflicts and therefore less willing to participate actively in the committees.

2.      Mutual mistrust and low transparency

The vulnerable livelihood of the community makes water source users and committee member mistrust each other concerning the payment or safe guarding of the maintenance fees. The need for a sudden financial resource, was mentioned as a reason why water source users doubted that committee members put the entire collected amount of cash onto a bank account. Furthermore, the ability of the committees to control and record the payments of the water source users are restricted due to different reasons: A lack of administrative and accounting skills and remoteness of widely dispersed settlements challenges communication flows. The organization of meetings between water source committees and water users is therefore also difficult. This low transparency fuels mutual mistrust.

3.       Social mechanisms to equalize water access exists

Sanctions such as imposed fines or denied access are assumed to push users to pay their monthly fees. However, they were rarely applied. The committee members often grant exemptions after evaluating the socio-economic situations of the water users. Conflicts between the committees and the users occurred if a household is assumed to be able to pay but refuses it. Private water sources within the community caused conflicts as well. Households who purchased a private one feel under pressure to share it with their neighbours. The system of sanctioning community members for not contributing the payment fees or getting a private water source correspond to market rules. However, water is perceived as a free good by many people. Hence, denying water access to a fellow member of the community transgresses cultural norms and behaviour. Sharing water and preventing someone from getting a private water source, are social mechanisms to equalize water access on the village level.

Behaviour based on the social value of water need to be acknowledged

If a sustainable water source management shall be achieved – community mechanisms have to be understood and acknowledged. Sharing water, conflict avoidance and other behaviour which equalizes access amongst the community members can be seen as obstacles towards the community management of water sources within a Demand Responsive Approach. However, it is suggested to evaluate these social structures positively, allowing the poorest of the community to access water. The government’s responsibility to provide water access and to accomplish the Human Right to Water for its citizens should nevertheless not be denied.

The study showed that the potential of collectively managing water sources based on a barely existing consumer culture must be questioned. Additionally, it is recommended to focus more on the understanding of the social values that water has within a rural community. How they look like in more detail within a rural, Tanzanian community is presented in the study.


Download the Thesis report from the RWSN website

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Rural water supply access in Tanzania: why has it stagnated?

re-posted from:

Despite massive investments in rural water supply in Tanzania, the number of people with access to improved water sources has not increased. This begs the question, what could be the reason for this stagnation?

This blog post is written by Lukas Kwezi and Catarina Fonseca 

Investments in rural water supply in Tanzania have increased significantly over the past decade. According to a 2015/16 water sector status report by the Ministry of Water and Irrigation, about US$ 500 million has been spent on rural water supply since the start of the Water Sector Development Programme (WSDP) in 2006, with about one-third of total spending coming from government.

This increased spend has largely been due to the drive to accelerate delivery of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and political commitment to meet the Tanzania Development Vision 2025 through various initiatives such as the Big Results Now (BRN).

For every new person served with an improved water source, there are two new persons without access

The Tanzanian population has tripled from 12.3 million in 1967 to 44.9 million in 2012. In 2015, due to reduced mortality rates and persistently high fertility rate, the total population had grown to almost 50 million, with about 70% of this population living in rural areas. Despite massive urbanisation, rural population growth was three times higher than urban population growth during this period.

However, access to drinking water coverage has only increased by one percentage point from 45% in 1990 to 46% in 2015 (see Figure 1). This clearly indicates that the investments made in the sub-sector have only managed to keep pace with population growth rather than expanding access to new population.

Figure 1: WHO/UNICEF JMP, URT (2015 Update)
Figure 1: WHO/UNICEF JMP, URT (2015 Update)

Population growth offers opportunities for investments and economic growth, but many agree that the increase in population is putting a huge strain on provision of basic services and resources, especially water. Recent data from the World Bank shows that the average volume of renewable freshwater per capita per year in Tanzania has declined by 80% since independence (from 7,862 m3 in 1962 to 1,621 m3 in 2014), putting the country in the water-stressed category. Water resource challenges are going to increase with growing agricultural intensification combined with climate change in the coming years. These facts highlight the importance of formulating water sector strategies that address the needs of the current and future population.

Where did the money go?

Construction of new schemes has been prioritised over building effective systems for operation and maintenance. For example, recent analysis shows that during the period 2012-2015, 75% of the expenditure in the rural water subsector went to the construction of new infrastructures, while only 14% went to recurrent expenditure – mainly salaries and allowances at local government level. While focus on new construction is not necessarily wastage of resources, the bias towards new construction compromised a focus on maintaining old and existing schemes. We all know that ‘Old is Gold’, but old gold must be smelted and polished to maintain its value.

On the other hand, over 80% of schemes constructed were motorised schemes with average per capita costs of US$ 24-90, deviating from the envisioned 48% hand pumps during programme design. Although the costs compare reasonably well regionally, the change in technology, meant that the programme was able to reach only half of the target population. Besides, motorised schemes come with their own risks: they are often costly and complex to operate and maintain.

Sustainability challenge: it’s not the pipes, it’s the institutions and its people

Studies in Sub-Saharan Africa show that for local authorities to provide sustainable water services, they should spend between US$ 1-3 per person per year on direct support costs and US$1.5-7 per person per year on major maintenance. However, evidence shows that in Tanzania, local authorities spend only 6-10% of what they should spend to ensure sustainable services.

Local authorities often lack adequate funds for direct support. This means that they are unable to fulfil their administration, contract management, and operation and maintenance support functions, to ensure sustainability of water services, and prevent future problems. Also, when unexpected major maintenance occurs (e.g. renewal or replacement of a pump), local authorities and communities often do not have the resources.

Anecdotal evidence from different regions in the country shows that it may take between 3-6 months to negotiate and settle the costs of repairs. During this period, even if major repairs cost only US$ 100, people revert to using unimproved water sources. Studies estimate that about one-third of water points in Tanzania become non-functional after two years of operation, forcing people to return to using unprotected, unsafe sources, indicating low levels of sustainability of rural water services. The implication is that a significant number of people that may have already been provided with first time access fall back to using unimproved water sources.

Rough estimates show that 5.3 million people could be provided with improved water sources if the bulk of non-functional water points were made functional. If this trend is not reversed, reaching the bottom 40% is going to be even more difficult.

What needs to change?

The second phase of the Water Sector Development Programme (WSDP) began in July 2016, with the aim to provide access to clean, safe water to 85% of the rural population by 2020/21. The government estimates that about US$ 862 million would be required to finance the plan. This is a very ambitious target but achievable if sector stakeholders can adopt new approaches and ways of working beyond the narrow focus on new construction.

First, we need to shift incentives and accountability (at all levels of government, politicians, donors, private sector, local authorities and communities) from delivering water points to delivery of sustainable services. The government has now embarked on results-based financing approaches to rural water supply. However, the implementation should be accompanied by a change in mind-set of planners, politicians, engineers, donors and communities. They need to realise that in order to deliver quality services and achieve the desired outcomes, it is not enough just to create an infrastructure (school, health facility, water point). Equally, we also need to strengthen and invest in the institutional system that manages and maintains the infrastructure.

Secondly, we need to get better at monitoring results. This encompasses cultivating a culture of accurate and timely reporting; measuring and verification of whether results reported have been achieved or not, and ensuring information generated is used to inform planning, budgeting and decision-making processes. New technologies can really create a ‘data revolution’ that will allow government and citizens to monitor and continuously improve service provision – if it’s part of the governance and formal accountability mechanisms.

Thirdly, we need to broaden the approach and adopt alternative service delivery models; for example by considering self-supply as a complementary water service delivery model in areas which are difficult to reach. This would mean adopting a broader financing framework to rural water supply that goes beyond capital investments for community-managed water supply systems.

Lastly, the current water policy, which assumes that communities are able to cover full costs related to operation and maintenance of water infrastructures, needs to be reviewed, along with clarifying financial responsibilities and accountability by different parties for capital investments, minor maintenance, major maintenance and direct support costs.

Disclaimer: Lukas Kwezi currently works for the UK Department for International Development (DFID) as Water and Sanitation Adviser, based in Dar es Salaam. He writes blog posts in his spare time. Though he may talk about the work he does in the sector, this is neither a corporate nor a political blog and the opinions and ideas expressed here are solely his own, not those of his employers. 

Groundwater Management into River Basin Organizations

A one-day training course in Dar es Salam, Tanzania Wednesday 20th, 2016.

 Background: Transboundary water management is of great importance to Africa as it has been emphasized in the African Water Vision 2025. Almost all Sub-Saharan African countries share at least one international river basin. In Africa there are about sixty transboundary lake and river basins and at least eighty transboundary aquifer basins. A training manual has been complied by a network of partners, including AGW-Net, ANBO, BGR, Cap-Net, IGRAC, IMAWESA, IWMI, IGRAC, and A4A – aqua for all in response to the needs expressed and is designed to help develop capacity on groundwater management within the basin organizations.

The Course: The 6th AWW ( that takes place in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) in July 18-22, 2016, will launch the manual, and at the same time implement a one-day training course on groundwater management. The course aims to: (1) promote sustainable groundwater resources management within the framework of IWRM in RBOs; (2) make groundwater resources in Africa more “visible” to water managers who are required to manage it sustainably; (3) raise awareness on the importance of groundwater resource to Africa, and especially in light of the growing impacts of climate change. Continue reading “Groundwater Management into River Basin Organizations”

Water, Spillovers and Free Riding: the economics of pump functionality in Tanzania

by Rossa O’Keeffe-O’Donovan, Economics PhD Candidate, University of Pennsylvania.

Which factors predict the functionality of hand pumps? Do communities free ride on their neighbors’ water sources? Are there positive spillover effects in the maintenance of nearby pumps? And what does this all mean for practitioners? This post gives an overview of my ongoing Economics PhD research, which tries to answer these questions.

Note: this research is still in progress, and I am seeking survey responses to complement my quantitative work, and help understand and interpret my results. If you have knowledge of how decisions are made in the installation and/or maintenance of hand pumps, please take this 8 minute survey here:

Continue reading “Water, Spillovers and Free Riding: the economics of pump functionality in Tanzania”

Imagine there is access to improved water sources but people don’t use it? Imagine there is no water supply, what are people going to do?

 Blog on Self-supply by André Olschewski, Skat Foundation

Self-supply are incremental improvements to access and water quality which are financed by own investments. The Self-supply approach and many more interesting topics have been presented and discussed at WEDC Conference 2015 which took place last week in Loughborough, UK.

Apparently people’s needs and aspirations related to water supply and sanitation and hygiene (WASH) do not always match with the level of service provided by interventions of WASH programmes or to put it differently WASH programmes are not always designed and implemented in a way that they satisfy people needs and aspirations.

Continue reading “Imagine there is access to improved water sources but people don’t use it? Imagine there is no water supply, what are people going to do?”

A New Rural Water Partnership Between The U.S. And Tanzania

Guest announcement by Rebecca Gianotti, Ph.D., Consultant, Global Water Initiative, The Ohio State University

Deputy Vice Chancellor Shabaan Mlacha of the University of Dodoma signed a letter of intent with leaders at the Ohio State University to develop capacity building programs in rural Tanzania for the entrepreneurial sectors surrounding water (food, energy, health, sanitation).
Deputy Vice Chancellor Shabaan Mlacha of the University of Dodoma signed a letter of intent with leaders at the Ohio State University to develop capacity building programs in rural Tanzania for the entrepreneurial sectors surrounding water (food, energy, health, sanitation).
Deputy Vice Chancellor Shabaan Mlacha of the University of Dodoma met with team members of the Global Water Initiative at Ohio State University as well as Tanzanian graduate students studying at Ohio State through another capacity building effort based at Sokoine University of Agriculture (Tanzania).

A new initiative at the Ohio State University that takes a systems approach to rural water development is launching pilot projects in Tanzania. Dubbed Wells to Wellness, the effort combines capacity building and tiered water point rehabilitation activities to provide scalable, sustainable systems solutions to water resource issues. In April, the university signed a letter of intent with the University of Dodoma in Tanzania to develop undergraduate programming that will strengthen the workforce in the entrepreneurial sectors surrounding water (food, energy, health, sanitation). The partnership between the two universities follows the announcement of a 55-MW solar array—the largest ever at a university—to be built by U.S.-based Hecate Energy at Dodoma in 2016. The new training and academic programs at the University of Dodoma will support both the budding renewable energy sector in rural Tanzania as well as a water point rehabilitation project also under Wells to Wellness. This effort will initially retrofit 125 inoperable wells as well as support health, sanitation and economic development with a systems approach incorporating a new franchising model for operations and maintenance as well as key collaborations with existing NGOs in Tanzania. Upon successful completion of the 125-well pilot, the Tanzanian government has provisionally committed to funding rehabilitation of thousands of additional wells by scaling up the model.
Continue reading “A New Rural Water Partnership Between The U.S. And Tanzania”

Roll out of technology applicability tool in Tanzania to assure sustainable WASH services

Lack of proper operation and maintenance (O&M), lack of participatory planning procedures, lack of flexibility to apply different management models for water supplies and inappropriate technology choices are among key issues identified which hindered sustainable WASH services during the Water Sanitation Development Plan (WSDP) Tanzania. The results of the national water point mapping clearly highlights the fact that more than 30% of all water points are not working.

To overcome these issues the leading Ministry of Water (MoW) in Tanzania included various measures in the design of the 2nd phase of the WSDP.

Continue reading “Roll out of technology applicability tool in Tanzania to assure sustainable WASH services”

Apples and oranges: a comparative assessment in WASH

water services that last

A few weeks ago, an interesting email discussion was held on “water point mapping” D-Group of the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN). Part of the discussion focused on how much it costs to map or monitor all water systems in a country. Various figures were floating around in the discussion. But when looking at these in more detail, it was like comparing apples to oranges. Some of the costs mentioned had included the staff time of (local) government, others hadn’t, as they considered this to be a fixed cost; some referred only to a simple mapping of water points, others had done a more comprehensive collection of all kinds of data of the water points; some of the data were expressed in dollars per water point, others in local currency per person. So, no immediate sense could be made of the numbers. A former colleague once said: “an apple is…

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