What policy says and practice does : gender, household and community in rural water provision in Tanzania

Mandara, C.G.



Since 1945 to date the governance of the rural water sector in Tanzania has passed through multiple phases, from the colonial era to the times characterized by liberalization, decentralisation and privatization. Generally, changes in the policies and governance strategies reflect a correspondence with national and international reforms in the political and economic spheres. In turn, these changes made the sector to experience pendulum swings over time in terms of policies and achieve­ments.

The main objective of this study was to examine how gender, household and community shape the appropriateness, accessibility and sustainability of domestic water schemes in rural Tanzania, and to explore whether and in what ways domestic water services take women’s gender needs into account. The study aimed at a critical analysis of the policy-practices nexus in terms of appropriate­ness, accessibility and sustainability in the contexts of the household and the community as representing the water users and hosting local water management structures, respectively.

The theoretical pillars of the study are ecological modernisation theory, gender theory, the concept of users’ perspective, and the community management model. These were blended into one theoretical framework. The fieldwork for the study was conducted between October 2011 and September 2012 in the rural districts of Kondoa and Mpwapwa in Dodoma region, in central Tanzania. It consisted of three overlapping phases in which quantitative and qualitative research methods were used to collect data from multiple units of analysis. Data collection for primary data was done through the household survey, focus group discussions, interviews with key informants, village and women case studies, participatory sketch mapping, and field observation. Secondary data was collected through the analysis of information from relevant documents at the village, district and national levels. Overall a total number of 334 respondents were involved in the study.

The study found that accessibility to the improved domestic water services is associated with seasonality and that, surprisingly, the average distance to the water distribution points increases during the rainy season. This is because then few water distribution points are operational. The mean number of users per water point is higher than the standard set by the policy guidelines, because the planning and designing of the water schemes rely on population projections and do not take migration and the spatial distribution of the population into account.

It was found that there is a difference between the existing water policy and practices related to domestic water uses and management at the micro levels of the household and the village. Within the household, the provision and use of domestic water is organised based on the gendered division of labour in domestic production. At the community level, the same pattern of the gendered division of labour influences men’s and women’s participation in the management of the public water schemes. At both levels the gendered division of labour and performance of men and women is shaped by social norms and traditions that are rooted in patriarchal culture. Women relate to domestic water more closely than men because they are the managers, providers and users of water for carrying out their reproductive roles in the household. This makes women knowledgeable about the appropriateness of water for domestic uses. However, women’s preferences and perceptions on the appropriateness of the domestic water are rarely integrated in the designing and planning phases of water projects. The government, in collaboration with the international community, has established women quota to ensure women’s participation in local decision-making spaces and management structures. However, the informal structures which are embedded in the normative traditions within and beyond the household, explicitly and implicit­ly deter women’s involvement in the public management of the water schemes.

Water users’ participation, and women’s participation in particular, was very minimal in the pre-implementation phase of village water projects. Hence, the users’ perspectives are poorly represented in the early stages of the water schemes. In general, there was low community participation not only before but also after implementation of the water schemes. Additionally, the sustainability of the rural water infrastructures is endangered mainly because water using communities have been assigned technical and managerial roles without being equipped with the corresponding capabilities. The district water departments which are responsible to provide technical support to the villages, are also confronted with shortages of human and financial resources plus inadequate transport facilities.

The findings from this study reveal the need to review the existing water policy and change the current community management approach. This thesis concludes by identifying ways forward through research, programs and policies to improve the rural domestic water provision in Tanzania.