Perceptions of Safe Water and Accessibility by Bural Farming Communities Residing Along the Fringes of the Okavango Delta

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Galase Tshepiso Ramolefhe
Barbara Ntombi Ngwenya
Njoku Ola Ama
Maria R Nnyepi
Moses John Chimbari


Globally, access to safe water for domestic use is a key social development indicator promoting health and enhancing national development. About 1 in 10 people are without access to safe water with Sub Saharan Africa facing greater challenges. Botswana, a semi-arid country, is not an exception to these challenges. Existing research has focused on water supply issues, physico-chemical properties and the effects of human activities on water quality but with little attention given to the community residents’ perceptions on accessibility of safe water. The study objective is to assess the community perceptions of safe water and accessibility amongst rural farmers of Ngamiland district. This is a descriptive cross-sectional study that  uses data from socio-economic survey (SES) conducted between July and August of 2010, Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) workshop reports from 2010-2012 and unobtrusive field observations by authors to assess the flood recession “molapo” farming communities’ perceptions of safe water and accessibility. A total of 161 farmers from Tubu, Xobe, and Shorobe that participated in the SES Survey are the ones being assessed in the current study. In order to investigate factors influencing safe water access, binary logistic regression model was fitted to some socio-economic and environmental variables. Results were reported using descriptive frequencies. Almost 80% of rural farming participants’ perceived water from all sources, improved and unimproved to be safe and adequate. Perceptions of water accessibility, availability and safety changed with 2010 showing satisfaction and 2012 dissatisfaction with these aspects. There is a significantly strong relationship between source of domestic water and communities (The contingency coefficient, r =0.707, p< 0.05). Number of people in a household is a significant predictor of access to safe water (p < 0.05). People who hold the view that molapo farming has potential to cause water borne disease and that molapo farming can be potential health hazard are, respectively, 1.25 and 1.711 times more likely to access safe water than those holding contrary views. Results further reveal that those who think that drinking water directly from a stream /river can cause diarrheal diseases are less likely to access safe water (OR= 0.542).  Rural farmers largely perceive the water they use for domestic purposes to be safe regardless of whether source is improved or unimproved, adequate and accessible. Farmers do not seem to link drinking water directly from unimproved sources as a potential cause of diarrheal diseases. Additionally, they do not think improved sources such as taps and communal standpipes help with accessibility to safe water probably because of their frequent malfunction and dryness. Public education is encouraged to promote community awareness of contamination of all water sources whether improved and/or non-improved.

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