Gender, water and livelihoods in Mseleni : a case study.
Hazell, Eleanor L. K.
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Water is essential to human survival, health, wellbeing and livelihoods. Access to sufficient water for consumption and domestic use is considered a basic need and a human right. Water use however, goes beyond basic needs; water is an asset important to livelihoods. There is a growing body of literature documenting water and livelihoods linkages, the gendered nature of water access, use and livelihoods however, is usually neglected. This case study investigates the gender, water and livelihoods interface in Mseleni, a rural community in KwaZulu Natal. 'Positive' (e.g. livelihoods enhancing) and 'negative' (e.g. livelihoods constraining) linkages are found. Access to a reliable, sufficient water supply increases the range of possible livelihood activities and has a 'multiplier' effect on livelihood outcomes. Poor water access results in health, opportunity and financial costs and furthermore, constrains livelihood activities; in particular agriculture. Where access is poor, there is a 'market' for selling water and water access, from which some people profit. Water access is influenced by inter and intra-household hierarchies: Gender, age, social status and class affect access to and control over resources and result in uneven accruement of the positive and negative water and livelihoods linkages. Technology, transport and money are potential levers which can alter the social relations of access. Recommendations are made on several levels to enhance livelihoods and advance gender equity: Factoring livelihoods water uses into definitions of basic needs and humans rights, norms, standards, policies and programmes. Working towards a more nuanced understanding of power relations at household and community level which influence water access and livelihood outcomes, coupled with commitment to support and empower disadvantaged people in rural areas to define their basic needs and claim their human rights. And the equitable roll-out of simple technologies, infrastructure and transport to deep rural areas in order to make water for livelihoods more accessible.