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Does Small-Scale Irrigation improve WASH outcomes? Insights from rural Ethiopia

IWRA 2021 Online Conference One Water, One Health
Theme 2: How can managing water in agriculture contribute to food security and public health?
Author(s): ChloƩ van Biljon, Claudia Ringler, Elizabeth Bryan and Dawit Mekonnen

Chloé van Biljon, Claudia Ringler, Elizabeth Bryan and Dawit Mekonnen

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)



Keyword(s): WASH, irrigation, multiple water use, Ethiopia, Water Source
Oral:

Abstract

(a) Purpose or objectives and status of study or research hypothesis
This paper aims to understand the pathway through which irrigation affects water access, the WASH environment, and, ultimately, health outcomes.

(b) Key issue(s) or problem(s) addressed
Improved access to water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is essential for human dignity, health, nutrition, as well as the environment. However, investments in WASH lag dramatically behind Sustainable Development Goal targets. At the same time, small-scale irrigation is rapidly expanding in parts of Africa south of the Sahara, from very low levels. Even though they often draw on the same source and have many of the same development objectives, WASH and small-scale irrigation investments continue to be developed and implemented independently


(c) Methodology or approach used
Each household is scored based on their WASH environment in three different categories; water supply, sanitation and hygiene based on the WHO and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme. Using a fixed effects model we compare how access to water, WASH practices, health outcomes and gender outcomes changes when households change their water use practices.


(d) Results and conclusions derived from the project
Our results indicate that households that use groundwater for both irrigation and domestic uses spend the least amount of time fetching water on a weekly basis due to the closeness of the irrigation well to the homestead. At the same time, non-irrigators are more likely than any other group to have insufficient water for domestic purposes and that more than 90% of households that irrigate report sufficient water for domestic purposes. These results support the notion that irrigation contributes to improved water access for households. However, there is little evidence that irrigating households have better sanitation or hygiene facilities or practices. Our results suggest that irrigation may improve one element of WASH, water supply, but we do not find a strong link between irrigation and the remaining two elements, sanitation and hygiene. Households that use surface water for both irrigation and domestic purposes have the worst hygiene practices of all groups, including non-irrigators. Surface water is considered the least desirable source for which explains the limited usage of the source for handwashing purposes.


(e) Implications of the project relevant to selected conference theme, theory and/or practice
As close to two thirds of non-irrigating households use either ground water or tap water for domestic needs, their domestic water access is superior to irrigating households that rely on surface water for multiple purposes. These findings reveal that, compared to a household’s irrigation status, source of domestic water may be a more important component in determining a household’s hygiene practices. We did not find strong differences in health outcomes by multiple water use status. This is unsurprising given the lack of effect on hygiene and sanitation and is in line with the literature.

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