Young scientist seeks to understand link between access to groundwater and poverty

Jacob Katuva is a doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford’s School of Geography and Environment.  His research focuses on community groundwater access and poverty in Kenya. Katuva holds a M.Sc. in Environmental and Biosystems Engineering from the University of Nairobi and a B.Sc. in Water and Environmental Engineering from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

Previously, the scientist spent over four years working as a consultant in engineering and development in the Eastern Africa region. He has vast experience in design-construction-operation and management of community rural water supply schemes, hydrological analyses, rainfall-runoff modelling and water balance models.

His experience in water resources management covers water resources assessments, developing and linking Management Information Systems (MIS) and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and advanced geo-statistics to water resources planning and management as well as hydropower feasibility studies, evaluation and impact studies of WASH programs, rural water supply and pollution studies in the context of the mining, irrigation and the water sectors in rural Kenya.

Q. How did you get involved with the UPGro project?

I joined UPGro back in 2013 when I was consulting with Rural Focus Ltd during the implementation of the catalyst project led by Oxford University. I was heavily involved in the set-up of the environmental monitoring network and the socio-economic surveys. This provided a great deal of natural and social science data regarding groundwater level and quality, water usage, health and welfare indicators paving way for an interdisciplinary study. I ended up applying for the D.Phil. programme at Oxford University to research groundwater and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa with a particular focus on coastal Kenya. I was fortunate to obtain additional funding from Base Titanium, a mining company working in Kenya which is one of the partners in Oxford University’s UPGro consortium project Gro for GooD.

Q. Tell us about your studies at the Oxford University and how it relates to the UPGro project

My research at Oxford University explores the links between groundwater and poverty. Understanding groundwater and poverty linkages is critical to unlocking the potential of groundwater for poverty reduction. Central to accelerating and sustaining Africa’s development is improving the understanding of how improved access to groundwater resources can benefit the poor. This includes identifying the role of groundwater on productive uses such as livestock watering and crop irrigation, examining the relationship between poverty and changes in groundwater levels, and understanding how groundwater dependency and access to sufficient, affordable, reliable, safe, good quality water and physical access are linked to the socio-economic development of households. These dimensions are pertinent to policy and practice in poverty reduction.

Q. What are some of the early findings for your research?Nyumbasita Pump.jpg

There is evidence that the depth of boreholes and poverty are associated: We saw wealthier households being associated with deeper groundwater sources while poorer households were associated with shallower wells and boreholes. However, due to the cumulative nature of the volumetric data from the handpump water data transmitters (http://www.oxwater.uk/technology.html) we could not disassociate the handpump usage per household since the transmitter, similar to a water meter, recorded the volume abstracted for each handpump and not volume abstracted by each household.

Q. What kind of advice would you give to the County Government of Kwale about groundwater, given your experience so far?

The UPGro project has generated pertinent knowledge on water services delivery in Kwale County and has identified pathways to poverty reduction. Two of the preliminary findings in Kwale include the discovery of paleochannels in Msambweni, empirical evidence of the benefits of smart monitoring and privatized professional maintenance and repair services on rural water supply infrastructure.

This discovery of paleochannels by Professor Olago of the University of Nairobi and his team, can accelerate achieving universal and equitable access to safe drinking water services for the County population. County should invest time and resources in understanding this resource and how it can be exploited to meet the ever-growing water needs for the county.

The County government should embrace the professional maintenance and repair services on rural water supply infrastructure to ensure rural communities, health centres and school children enjoy equitable access to safe drinking water.

This model of maintaining rural water services has been developed and tested in Kwale and Kitui County with positive results. The model is called the FundiFix model and more details can be found here: https://reachwater.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Fundifix-booklet-WEB.pdf. To accelerate poverty reduction, the County government should ensure borehole drilling and equipping standards are adhered to, communities water infrastructure receive preventive maintenance and professionalized repair services to keep water flowing.

Q. What is your message to upcoming scientists who are interested in your area of specialization?

I would urge upcoming scientists in Kenya to progressively broaden their research to incorporate both the social and natural sciences. Integrating the two, thereby widening our understanding of the socio-ecological systems, will lead to the development of much more effective policies informed by the needs of the people.

Q. What are your future plans beyond the UPGro project?

Part of my future plans includes seeing the completion, implementation and operationalization of the findings of the UPGro project here in Kwale so that our groundwater resources can benefit everyone here, in particular the poor. In addition I will be excited to contribute to framing the poverty reduction policies and strategies for the County building on the evidence emerging from the longitudinal socio-economic studies over the last four years.Carrying water

Interview by Isaiah Esipisu; Images by Nancy Gladstone/Gro for GooD project

New paper: No evidence found of large scale groundwater depletion in major African aquifers

A new paper has been published by the GroFutures team as part of a Special Issue “Remote Sensing of Groundwater from River Basin to Global Scales”

Key Points : –

  • GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellite can be used to estimate changes in water storage on time resolution of 1 month and a spatial resolution of about 450 x 450 km.
  • GRACE can be used to estimate groundwater storage changes where it is the dominant water mass. It is therefore useful in many areas of Sub-Saharan Africa where there are relatively few direct groundwater level measurements.
  • The paper focuses on the major sedimentary aquifers basins, where the majority of Africa’s groundwater resources are to be found. Away from these basins, groundwater storage is 1-2 orders of magnitude less.
  • There is no evidence of continuous long-term declining trends of Total Water Storage (mostly groundwater) in any of the major sedimentary aquifers, which indicates that none are stressed by current abstraction rateshowever it is important to stress that local scale depletion may be occurring but is beyond the resolution of GRACE to detect.

There are also some interesting findings in regard to the combination of GRACE and Land Surface Modelling and how well (or not) they represent groundwater recharge processes in the different basins.

Read the full paper here:

Bonsor, H.C.; Shamsudduha, M.; Marchant, B.P.; MacDonald, A.M.; Taylor, R.G. Seasonal and Decadal Groundwater Changes in African Sedimentary Aquifers Estimated Using GRACE Products and LSMs. Remote Sens. 201810, 904. http://www.mdpi.com/2072-4292/10/6/904

photo: Well for cattle, Songho, Mali, Credit: Emeline Hassenforder. Well for cattle and domestic use. , Songho, Mali.

 

New Research Digests – get up to speed…fast

If missed recent papers published from the UPGro Gro for GooD study, then you can get up to speed with the key points in these new briefs from Oxford University:

Risk factors associated with rural water supply failure: A 30-year retrospective study of handpumps on the south coast of Kenya
A critical mass analysis of community-based financing of water services in rural Kenya
Evaluating waterpoint sustainability and access implications of revenue collection approaches in rural Kenya

and from related non-UPGro research:

A multi-decadal and social-ecological systems analysis of community waterpoint payment behaviours in rural Kenya

Safe water in towns and peri-urban areas: challenges of self-supply and water quality monitoring

Millions of people in towns and cities across Sub-Saharan Africa depend on groundwater day-to-day – but is it safe to drink? How can we measure the safety quickly, cheaply and accurately?  In this RWSN-UPGro webinar, Dr Jenny Grönwall (SIWI/T-GroUP) and Dr Dan Lapworth (BGS) present the latest updates on their research into urban groundwater monitoring and use, and how it can be improved.

Water monitoring upgraded in Upper Great Ruaha, Tanzania

re-posted from GroFutures

The GroFutures Team, working with the Tanzanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation, expanded monitoring infrastructure in the Upper Great Ruaha Observatory (UGRO) to include interactions between groundwater and surface water.

An outstanding question regarding the sustainability of groundwater withdrawals for irrigation and drinking-water supplies is whether groundwater in the agriculturally intensive lowlands is replenished by river flow, sustains river flow, or both depending upon the season.

Continue reading Water monitoring upgraded in Upper Great Ruaha, Tanzania

Debating real-world community-based management of water points

Community-management has been the mainstay of rural water supplies in Africa, and in many other parts of the world, but is it the only way? Are there better alternatives? In this lively webinar, researchers from the UPGro Hidden Crisis project discuss their research with RWSN members:

Do you have anything to add? Leave your comments below.

Participants of the Arena in Arusha, Tanzania, identified a multitude of interconnected problems

by Jan Willem Foppen, re-posted from T-GroUP

Arusha is one of the faster-growing cities in Tanzania. The urbanization process is causing multiple interconnected problems. The first arena meeting organized as part of the T-Group Arusha Transition Management process was held by the local transition team with the aim to identify the existing community problems in Arusha. Below we briefly describe the findings from the first Arena meeting.

Continue reading Participants of the Arena in Arusha, Tanzania, identified a multitude of interconnected problems

Bringing groundwater to the table of decision-makers in Ghana

re-posted from BRAVE

The BRAVE Policy Roundtables and Synthesis Day were held in Accra, Ghana on the 14th May – 16th May and brought together government ministers, journalists, researchers and civil society to tackle one crucial and important question.

How can we unlock the potential of groundwater for the poor?
Continue reading Bringing groundwater to the table of decision-makers in Ghana

Life after UPGro: an interview with Early Career Researcher, Shabana Abbas

SHABANA-3The UPGro programme is an amazing opportunity for young researchers to get experience at the cutting edge of interdisciplinary research that is focused on tackling poverty.

We caught up with Shabana Abbas, who was part of the T-GroUP project and is second author on a new UPGro paper entitled:The emancipatory promise of participatory water governance for the urban poor: Reflections on the transition management approach in the cities of Dodowa, Ghana and Arusha, Tanzania.

UPGro: Where are you from and how did you get involved in UPGro?

SA: I am from Pakistan. I got involved in UPGro in 2015, when I was pursuing my MSc at IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands.

UPGro: What research activities did you do as part of the T-GroUP project?

SA: I was offered the opportunity to undertake my masters research under the T-GroUP project, one of the consortium projects of UPGro. My research was about urban water supply and groundwater governance in Arusha city in Tanzania. I took a multi-scale approach and collected mostly qualitative data through in-depth interviews at ward, city and at the basin level.

Some of the key actors that I interviewed were residents from six different wards (lowest administration units within the city), Ward administrators, employees of the Arusha Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Authority, Arusha City Council and of the Pangani Basin Water Board. I also interviewed selected industrial/commercial users of groundwater such as bottled water companies, breweries etc. Moreover, I interviewed drilling companies operating in the city.

Through all my research activities including document analysis, I aimed to understand who is using groundwater, where, why and what does it say about the overall use of groundwater in Arusha. I tried to explore how this use is governed (if) for both environmental and social needs.

UPGro: What were your highlights of being part of the UPGro programme?

SA: For me there were three things:

Firstly, the opportunity to collaborate with researchers from different institutes/universities such as the team at IHE Delft, Netherlands, Dr. Maryam Nastar (Lund University, Sweden) & Dr. Hans Komakech (Nelson Mandela Institute, Arusha, Tanzania), who are all part of the T-GroUP.

Secondly, the entire experience of living in Arusha for three months with two other IHE students, also working under the project. All three of us looked at different aspects of groundwater in Arusha. I enjoyed the process of finding out new details every day and discussing/comparing these with the fellow researchers.

Finally,  the chance to work with Dr. Michelle Kooy & Dr. Margreet Zwarteveen, my supervisors who have inspired me and supported me throughout my research.

UPGro:  What did you take away about the links between groundwater use (or lack of it) and poverty? 

SA: There are two sides to it:

Firstly, most of the boreholes and wells in the areas I visited were mostly owned by people from higher socio-economic class and that prices that they charged to other households (mostly to ones who could not afford to have their own wells and boreholes) varied and were unregulated.  This makes me wonder if groundwater is really for the urban poor if they have to spend quite some amount on it?

Secondly, I found the higher concentration of fluoride in groundwater in Arusha limits its use for non-potable uses only. This means that if groundwater supplied at fair price to the poor can actually lessen their overall expenses on water. . I learned that groundwater plays a big role in the different household water supply combinations. For instance, in the six different areas of the city, people (both from high and low socio-economicbackground) used 28 different household water supply combinations and about 50% of these included water from boreholes and wells.

UPGro: What did you do next, and where are you now?

SA: After graduation, I joined Aqua for All in the Hague, Netherlands. Here, I work on a water innovation programme (VIA Water) that supports innovations addressing urban water & sanitation challenges in seven countries in Africa. One of the key areas of innovation that we support is for ‘sustainable use of groundwater resources’ and we have some interesting innovations being piloted in these countries. You can find out more about these projects here: www.viawater.nl/projects

Then in my spare time (!) I am President of the Water Youth Network and lead the Advisory Board. I am also one of the Junior Global Advisory Panel members for Oxford University’s REACH programme.

UPGro: How did being part of the UPGro T-GroUP project help you, or steer you in new directions?

SA:  Prior to my masters, I worked on rural water supply projects in the north of Pakistan. There, water was mostly sourced from springs. Participation in T-GroUP allowed me for the first time to study groundwater in detail. I was able to see what groundwater means for urban water supply in Arusha and in other African cities.It was all very new for me. I was quickly able to find out how serious the issue of groundwater governance is in many developing countries.  My research in Arusha made me very curious and interested in water issues in Africa. It also motivated me to take on the job I am doing at the moment.

UPGro: What advice would you give to other young people who would like to get involved in African water issues?

SA: Go out there with an open mind; Don’t be afraid to ask the ‘why?’ questions and remain critical.

UPGro: What can programmes like UPGro do to support young researchers and young professionals in their careers?

SA: Offer more opportunities to young researchers to share their  work through webinars and other mediums. Moreover, after students finish their research work, offer them some sort of fellowship for translating their work into knowledge products for wider/non-academic audiences.

UPGro:  Finally, what changes would you like to see in the way that groundwater is managed across Africa?

SA: First, I would like that groundwater be recognized as an essential resource that needs to be governed in a socially equitable and ecologically sustainable way.

And second, I would like that local actors take responsibility of ensuring that groundwater is not overexploited. They should make efforts to utilize the UPGro/other research work and see how policy level changes on groundwater can be informed by that.

You can download Shabana’s MSc thesis presentation here.

Are you a Young Water Professional or Researcher with a good experience to share or would like to find out how to the take the next step in your career? Join the new Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) Young Professionals Network

[photo credit: S.Abbas]

Facilitating community members in Dodowa to envision their communities in the future

by Jan Willem Foppen (Re-posted from T-GroUP)

End of 2017, the Dodowa Local Transition Team facilitated the process of envisioning, one of the most important steps in the Transition Management process, through the organisation of (four) workshops for (four) local communities.

Each workshop started with a short summary of the results of previous meetings and sharing of expectations. The participants were then invited to work in different groups and were encouraged to imagine themselves, their families and their communities in the future.

Hereby, emphasis was put on the future of water, sanitation and waste systems in their communities.

In some of the groups, participants were somewhat shy and more time was required to feel at ease and to share openly their opinions. Also, in other groups, participants discussed very enthusiastically various aspects of the envisioning exercise from the very beginning.

The groups chose different ways to represent their future images, e.g. drawing, writing key words or by developing more descriptive sentences. T-GroUP facilitators noticed that during the exercise the participants had the tendency to list actions rather than future images and it was more difficult to imagine the future, especially when far away.

Nevertheless, at the end of the exercise many visions were developed from each group of participants: clean environment, good sanitation for all, sensitized and educated community, good quality water for all, and a healthy and clean community free from waste.

A representative per each group had the opportunity to share the developed visions and everyone was encouraged to ask questions and add comments. After the meeting, participants told us they appreciated the opportunity to learn from each other and express openly their views through their active participation in the process.

Photo: Participant group of the Zongo community (photo credit: T-GroUP/IHE Delft)