Rural-based water security coping strategies: a case of Muhuru-bay Migori district, western Kenya
Rural-based water security coping strategies (RUBAWACS) among rural communities is a common phenomenon not only in Kenya but worldwide. These strategies are seen as response to risks associated with water scarcity and contamination such as reduction in water per capita and water-borne diseases. However, response to these risks by communities through various strategies is hampered by a number of factors such as limited resources, cultural barriers, policy gaps as well as institutional challenges. The rural-based water security coping strategies are informal responses that people rely on to solve resource-based problems that the government and other formal institutions cannot easily address. In spite of the importance of these strategies in supporting local communities in ensuring water security, studies are yet to fully address the question of how the various strategies contribute to water per capita and household sanitation. The main objective of this study was to investigate the impacts of rural-based water security coping strategies (RUBAWACS) in addressing challenges of water scarcity in Muhuru-Bay, Migori district. We utilized the livelihood theory as advanced by Chambers and Conway (1992) and Ellis (2000; 10) to describe the emergence and impacts of RUBAWACS on domestic water security in Muhuru-Bay. The United Nations Development Programs’ concept of human poverty of 1965 was also explored and related to the enhancement of human development through provision of clean and safe water. Data was obtained from field survey, secondary sources as well as PRA simple pairwise ranking. For the field survey, a semi-structured questionnaire was used in Muhuru-Bay in four villages namely; Rabwao, Nyakiringoto, Bande and Olando. Sixty (60) respondents were randomly selected for interviewing. Eight key informants provided detailed information on key areas of investigation. This was complimented with in-depth key interviews as well as focus group discussion (FGD). In analyzing the field data, descriptive and inferential statistics was calculated using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) program. This was then integrated with narratives and the results from PRA pair-wise ranking. Ground photographs were also captured to ascertain qualitative information from respondents. The graphical presentations of the frequency distribution in form of pie charts and bar graphs were made by the application of micro-soft excel (MS-Excel). The general results across the four villages surveyed indicate that lack of rural water provision policy, poverty, inadequate sanitation facilities and cultural beliefs are some of the primary reasons for the persistent water problem in the area. Further results indicate that adoption of water security coping strategies was on the rise and that despite their high level of adoption, water per capita and sanitation conditions had not improved. Specifically, application of coping strategies had not necessarily increased amount of water required for most of the domestic activities. Hence water consumed falls below the global water per capita requirement. Consequently, the study found out that water for drinking was treated using both modern and traditional methods yet occurrence of water-borne diseases (cholera, bilharzias and typhoid) was common in the area. The Luo cultural values and resource scarcity were found to be some of the factors influencing patterns of water storage and treatment. Based on the findings, a number of relevant recommendations are suggested. First, given the multifaceted nature of challenges facing rural water sector, the study proposes establishment of a Rural Water Development Authority (RUWADA) as an apex framework for rural water planning. The proposed policy framework would provide strategies and guidelines for domestic water access, utilization and management. A legal framework to protect source point water pollution is also a desirable component of the proposed policy. This is based on the fact that majority of the residents in the study area collect water from open lake and rivers. Secondly, the results suggest that water security is influenced by resource scarcity hence need to enhance access to water storage facilities affordably. Lastly, in order to mitigate against the negative effects of culture on domestic water management, the proposed policy framework (RUWABCA) should consider integrating indigenous knowledge (IK) with modern domestic water management systems.