The role of productive water use in women'€™s livelihoods: Evidence from rural Senegal

Emily van Houweling
School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA; evh@vt.edu
Ralph P. Hall
School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA; rphall@vt.edu
Aissatou Sakho Diop
iDEV-ic, Dakar Yoff, Senegal; astoudiop@idev-ic.com
Jennifer Davis
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA; jennadavis@stanford.edu
Mark Seiss
Department of Statistics, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA; mseiss@vt.edu

ABSTRACT: Enhancing livelihoods and promoting gender equity are primary goals of rural development programmes in Africa. This article explores the role of productive water use in relation to these goals based on 1860 household surveys and 15 women'€™s focus groups conducted in four regions of Senegal with small-scale piped water systems. The piped systems can be considered 'domestic plus' systems because they were designed primarily for domestic use, and also to accommodate small-scale productive uses including livestock-raising and community-gardening. This research focuses on the significance of productive water use in the livelihood diversification strategies of rural women. In Senegal, we find that access to water for productive purposes is a critical asset for expanding and diversifying rural livelihoods. The time savings associated with small piped systems and the increased water available allowed women to enhance existing activities and initiate new enterprises. Women's livelihoods were found to depend on productive use activities, namely livestock-raising and gardening, and it is estimated that one half of women'€™s incomes is linked to productive water use. While these findings are largely positive, we find that water service and affordability constraints limit the potential benefits of productive water use for women and the poorest groups. Implications for targeting women and the poorest groups within the domestic plus approach are discussed.

KEYWORDS: Water supply, women, multiple-use water services, domestic plus, Senegal