South Africa - Access to water and livelihoods in ward 16, Bushbuckridge

South Africa - Access to water and livelihoods in ward 16, Bushbuckridge

Title South Africa - Access to water and livelihoods in ward 16, Bushbuckridge
Publication TypeStudy report
Year of PublicationSubmitted
AuthorsCousins T, Chauke SSmits and
Publication Languageeng

This reports analyses the role of water in people's livelihoods in Bushbuckridge, South Africa. Productive use of water is not a main contribution to people's income, but crucial in diversification and reducing vulnerability. There are many other livelihoods impacts of water suppply as well, especially in terms of drudgery. It shows how the type and scope of water-based livelihoods activities is shaped by access to water resources, water supply infrastructure and local institutions to manage water. Especially water supply infrastructure is currently a main limiting factor for water-based livelihoods in the study area.

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Over the past years, the NGO AWARD (Association for Water and Rural Development) has been working on a programme entitled SWELL (Securing Water to Enhance Local Livelihoods) in ward 16 of the Bushbuckridge Local Municipality, South Africa. The aim of the programme is to develop an approach for integrated planning of rural water services to enhance people’s livelihoods, especially of the poorest and most vulnerable groups in the communities. This report aims to provide insight into the current role of water in people’s livelihoods and especially how that is shaped by access to water.

The report shows that at first sight typical water-based activities, such as gardening, livestock or small business, are not the main source of livelihood for the people in the area. However, they do play a crucial role in diversifying and reducing vulnerability and dependency on other sources of livelihood. They also do provide important nutritious food and cash to the poorer households.

The extent to which these livelihoods activities can be undertaken depends to a large extent on access to water. Whereas in the area access to water resources is not a major limiting factor, the current infrastructure and its management is. Poor design, operation and maintenance result in frequent break-downs and unreliable supply. As a result people curtail or delay their productive activities. But they are also affected in other aspects of their livelihoods, especially time spent on water collection. As coping strategies they may have to go to neighbouring villages to collect water, buy expensive water from private vendors or store water at household level. The poorest and most vulnerable groups lack the assets to deal with these stresses.

Main recommendations include a number of strategies to improve immediate access to water, especially through clarifying institutional roles and responsibilities and developing operation and maintenance plans. In addition, recommendations are given to integrated planning for multiple uses. Understanding livelihoods, especially of the poorest people and households, is crucial in this.

A full synthesis report can be downloaded here, as well as short summary reports of the villages where the assessments were done.