Urban Rural Continuum

In countries undergoing rapid urbanization, cities have a major impact on their surrounding rural hinterland. The social, economic and environmental transformations are irreversible, as urbanisation engenders often dramatic changes in production and consumption patterns, in the use of energy, land and water, and in the generation of waste and pollution. The practices featured below present examples of how a wide range of cities and communities are dealing with different aspects of the urban-rural continuum. They range from urban agriculture and the management of land and water resources, to the critical issue of preventing urban sprawl and finding effective institutional arrangements for inter-jurisdictional cooperation and strategic planning.


Urban Agriculture Programme, Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina


In 2001, Argentina was in turmoil as public anger over a deepening recession and widespread poverty sparked riots, looting, vandalism, and angry protests. Rosario City, population 906,004 located in the Santa Fe province was no exception. This was a culmination of two decades of gradual economic decline which left many people unemployed. Consequently, the peri-urban zone was characterised by irregular settlements, inhabited by unemployed families and migrants from the northern provinces of the country. The Urban Agriculture Programme (UAP) was initiated after the economic crisis, which manifested itself in Rosario with poverty levels rising to 60 % of the population.

The programme was initiated to respond to this situation by providing sustainable means of food production in urban centres for a population whose poverty line is US$ 90. The objective was to promote a constructive process of endogenous development, with participatory strategies and co-operative forms of production, transformation, commercialisation, as well as healthy food consumption.

The impact of the programme has been to make low income families feel valued and recognised as actors forming part of an inclusive process (especially women). So far 791 community gardens have been established and this has led to the improvement of the urban neighbourhood landscape as well as the quality of life of its inhabitants. Currently, more than 10,000 families are directly linked to the production of organic vegetables, which are consumed by 40,000 people. This has been possible through the creation of an economy of solidarity network that includes 342 productive groups. Each group participates weekly in three of the locally established fairs, deriving a monthly income ranging between US$ 40 and US$ 150.

The produce from the community gardens has a high social value in terms of quality. One example has been the development of a production plan to supply soup kitchens and schools within the framework of a common social network. The poor now have access to secure tenure on the land that the community gardens occupy. This has been possible through the institutionalisation of urban agriculture (UA) as a local government public policy. The latter was instituted through Ordinance HCD 7341/02 of Rosario's Deliberative Town Council and Decree of the Secretary of Social Promotion N° 808/03 while the use of lands for the AU is regulated by Ordinance N° 4713/89 and 7341/02. The market fairs are regulated by the Ordinance N° 7358/02 of the Deliberative Town Council.

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Integrated Safe Water Supply, Changshu, Jiangsu Province, China


Located in Southeast of Jiangsu Province as a regional hub of the Yangtze Delta, Changshu has a total area of 1,142km2, a resident population of 1.03 million and a population of 300,000 from other places. It has an urban built-up area of 60km2 with a population of 315,000. There are 12 towns under its administration. Changshu has been long acclaimed as a land of honey and milk mainly for its highly developed agriculture. The city boasts a diversified industrial structure with textile, light industry, food processing, metallurgy, machinery, electronic and chemical industry, building materials etc. as the mainstay. The tertiary industry is making its dramatic development in the past 20 years, featuring a booming of tourist industry, wholesale and retail industry as well as other service sectors. The city’s gross domestic product in 2003 was RMB 47.6 billion or per capita US$5,500.

Situated in a confluence of rivers, water pollution began to be a serious problem with the rapid advance of industrialization and urbanization. By the early 1980s, Changshu was witnessing critical shortages of source water and poor quality of drinking water. Increasing demand for domestic water led to the mass use of deep well water of poor quality (mainly extra minerals content) and seriously affected health of both urban and rural inhabitants. This situation became so severe and finally brought about the implementation of No. 3 Water Supply Plant in 1997. The plant, representing an investment of 300 million RMB (US$ 36 million), uses the Yangtze River as its source and provides 700,000 city dwellers with clean and pure water. In order to extend safe drinking water supply to the whole city, including surrounding rural areas, No. 3 Water Supply Plant was expanded in 2000. Health conditions of Changshu citizens have been greatly improved and the number of patients suffering from water borne diseases has declined by over 80 percent.

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Liveable Region Strategic Plan (LRSP) for the Greater Vancouver Regional District, Canada

The Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) is a partnership of 21 municipalities and one electoral area that make up the metropolitan area of Greater Vancouver. The Greater Vancouver Regional District had been experiencing population growth from 750,000 in 1980 to 2,030,000 in 2002 increasing pressure on greenspace, traffic congestion and resulting in declining air quality. There was a lack of vision and no coordination of development actions within the region.
The 21 member municipalities of the Greater Vancouver region brought various stakeholders together in a series of workshops to develop the Livable Region Strategic Plan (LRSP). The Livable Region Strategic Plan (LRSP) is Greater Vancouver's regional growth strategy and is used by all levels of government as the framework for making regional land use and transportation decisions. Other agencies, the private sector and residents also use the plan in order to understand and contribute to Greater Vancouver's vision for its future development. The plan focuses on the creation of a Green Zone as an effective urban containment area while protecting the region's ecology, health and agriculture.

The LRSP provides the framework for making regional land use and transportation decisions in partnership with the GVRD's 21 member municipalities, the provincial government and other agencies guided by a shared vision. Urban centres were identified and have been successful in containing development efforts within a concentrated urban area while establishing diverse and more complete communities. The plan led to the establishment of a regionally controlled and operated transit authority (Greater Vancouver Regional Transit Authority) from the previous provincial entities. These initiatives have enhanced the region's social, economic and environmental health. Implementation of the plan is integrated into the budgets of the member municipalities through their official community plans.

As a result of this initiative, the protected green zone has increased by approximately 60,000 hectares since 1991. Air quality improvements have been significant as a result of reductions in emissions from industry and vehicles.

A key contributing factor to the success has been the formulation of a shared vision that guides the development. The LSRP proves that this can lead to large scale impacts on the structure and characteristics of a region. It also shows that partnership between spheres of government and communities is achieving tangible results. What makes the Greater Vancouver Regional District stand out as compared to comparable practices is the scale of its coordinated effort. Vancouver demonstrates that sustainable development is a planning concept that benefits development and the environment.

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Maweni Squatters Resettlement Programme, Kenya

Voi is located in the “lowland” part of Kenya, which presents environmental and development challenges. The rainy seasons, relating to the South-Eastern monsoon, last from March to May and October to December with violent storms being common. The natural vegetation cover ranges from dry bush with trees, to scattered trees and open grassland. The area harbours various species of anopheles, the mosquito that spreads malaria, as well as the tsetse fly.
The Maweni (meaning rocky area in Kiswahili) Development Group was established on 14 June 1993 with the objective of acquiring land on an individual title deed basis. The strategy was to mobilize resources from members of the Group.

The goal of the Maweni Development Group was to identify suitable land and facilitate provision of low-cost housing to the informal settlement dwellers (squatters). This involved organizing the residents into a group and the establishment of a management system and means of control of the initiative, including the setting of building standards. To realize this objective an application had to be made for land from the Government of Kenya. In turn, the land would need to be planned, surveyed, demarcated and title deeds issued to the members. Part Development Plans were prepared in 1997 by the District Physical Planning Officer. Cadastral Surveys had also been prepared; media advertisements as per Physical Planning Act 1996 were effected on 10 August 2000. The letters of allotment have been issued. In the mean time, the members of the Group have mobilised their own resources to improve the housing and settlement conditions, are engaging in income-generating activities, have developed new ways of improving housing affordability and of obtaining housing finance, and are re-defining decision-making processes.

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An Integrated Development Project in the Greater Mafikeng Area, South Africa

Mafikeng, situated 300 km to the west of Johannesburg, has a population of over 250,000. Greater Mafikeng is comprised of Mafikeng and the peri-urban tribal area. This area is divided by the Molopo River from east to west. To the south, out of the municipal area, is the tribal area where, people live in deprived conditions: lack of access to safe water and sanitation; poor roads and drainage; and other basic infrastructure and services. North of the river is Mafikeng, with more formally established communities with better services and facilities, which have all the same been neglected.

The Mafikeng Development Programme was initiated in 1995 with an aim of coordinating a wide spectrum of social, economic and environmental projects in the Greater Mafikeng Area within one comprehensive plan. Tourism was identified as the driving force to improve the river corridor and the city in general, which in turn will improve the living conditions of the people by providing them with basic necessities and employment.

The first step towards empowering those previously oppressed under the apartheid system was the establishment of a broad-based Steering Committee comprised of very different administrative systems: Tribal Authorities, City Council, Government Departments, the informal sector, local businesses and the tourism industry. The programme focuses on training and building local capacity through the integrated development of several programmes: city and river clean up; clean water provision; improved storm water facilities; improved traffic flows; and enterprise and tourism development. Where practical, all public works contracts were divided into smaller components to involve as many new emerging contractors as possible. Where established contractors were required, labour intensive methods were encouraged and favoured. The Steering Committee has emerged not only as the forum of economic development for the area, but its conflict resolution role is helping repair the social fabric of the entire community.

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The Sustainable Indigenous Peoples Agricultural Technology (SIPAT), Philippines


Philippines has a population of over 80 million people with a GNI per capita of US$ 1,030 (World Bank, 2002). In the early 1980’s, the town of Kalinga, situated in Northern Philippines experienced serious environmental challenges. Traditional knowledge and indigenous knowledge systems disappeared and this bought about poverty and endangered mountain biodiversity.
SIPAT addresses the problems of poverty, cultural and biodiversity loss among the indigenous communities farming the ancient rice terrace of Northern Philippines. The main objectives of SIPAT were to advocate for the reversal termination of the environmentally destructive projects in Kalinga. Others were to promote Indigenous Peoples Rights Act and to assist, organize and empower the indigenous peoples.

The organization used people-to-people and communities-to-communities’ mobilization strategies to support their activities. The principles of asset-based community development were applied. The organization also used an Indigenous Peoples Way of Management and Decision-Making (AMUNG) in organizational management and programs and services delivery. AMUNG enhanced active involvement, active participation and multi-partnership in program/project implementation. AMUNG enhanced gender sensitivity and promoted high involvement of women and youth in decision-making and management. AMUNG also promoted a strong sense of ownership among stakeholders.

Achievements have included, 81% of the forest in Kalinga being protected, conserved and maintained. 108 watersheds were managed, conserved and protected and 27 hectares of rice terraces newly created & 126 hectares rehabilitated. From 1990-1996 a total of 7 indigenous communities with 1,071 households were assisted, increased their production by 27% and ensured their food security. From 1997-2002, three poorest-of-the poor indigenous communities were assisted with 324 households that increased their production by 36%. From 2002-2003, 154 households assisted that increased their production by 45%.

The organization gained the support from multi-sectoral partners involving nine local government units, three networks of non-governmental organizations and national development programs. The organization has successfully engaged in advocacy that led to the termination of two environmentally destructive projects, and the passage of progressive legislation such as the indigenous People’s Rights Act and the creation of the Banawe Rice Terraces Commission.

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Women's Contribution in Sustainable Rural Development, Lebanon

Lebanon is located in the Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Israel and Syria covering 10,400 square kilometres. Deir El Ahmar, with a population of 550,000, is part of the Bekaa valley. People in this area face myriad economic hardships where per capita income is US$ 50 per month and the immigration level is very high.

In 1991, a group of women voluntarily got together to establish an NGO (WADA) aiming at sustainable rural development, through economic, financial and political empowerment. The objectives of the NGO included building the capacity of rural women to launch awareness programmes in environmental management, healthcare and eco-tourism. The municipality provided them with 1.5 hectares of fertile land.

WADA has accomplished about 70% of its objectives for the "Rural Development Center", which includes playgrounds, theatres, day-care center, capacity training and production center for women, multi-purpose hall and a local library. The programmes have gone a long way in building women's capacity to respond to day-to-day challenges. Agro-food products were cultivated and handcraft business started. Their products are sold locally as well as exported (total sales in 2001 were US$ 50,000). Educational and training programmes have been conducted for women in the areas of health care, environment protection and tourism promotion.

WADA collaborated with organizations representing various sectors of the community to help solve pressing problems. The NGO works with Creative Associates (USAID), Union Cities, CBOs, school representatives and the municipality. WADA is also a member of the '' Lebanese Women's Council'' whose basic principle is to advocate gender equality and raise legal awareness on women's rights.

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Partnership in Service Delivery for Sustainable Rural Water Provision in South Africa

South Africa's Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) initiated a Community Water Supply and Sanitation Programme, which focuses on the delivery of water and sanitation to rural populations, previously disadvantaged by apartheid. Initiated in 1997, DWAF appointed a single contractor known as Programme Implementation Agents (PIA) for each province using a competitive tender process to carry out the implementation of water and sanitation projects. A key component of the contracts is the Build, Operate, Train and Transfer (BoTT) that is designed to empower community members while ensuring sustainability of the projects. The BoTT contract is an adapted version of the contract for Turnkey Projects and facilitates for the transfer of many client responsibilities to the PIA. The PIA complements existing resources by bringing in additional capacity and provides the provinces with an integrated team for all phases of a project. Capacity building in the state and the community is a key element of the PIA responsibilities and the community retains key decision making responsibility.

The contract places emphasis on the partnership required between the PIA, the Department, Local Government and the community. The state provides the capital for infrastructure as well as setting the overall planning and delivery objectives. In addition the PIA provides the continuity of responsibility to take the project through its full cycle from initiation through construction, sustainable operation and maintenance. The PIA has the contractual responsibility to empower and train the local authority and community to take over the scheme within a prescribed period. This ensures that local government and the community are the ultimate beneficiaries of the programme as the schemes are transferred to them. DWAF is in the process of adapting the BoTT programme to suit local government requirements by addressing such issues as decentralization and transfer of responsibility for projects to local authorities. The BoTT programme in the four provinces has provided water to approximately 4,000,000 people.

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Support to the Creation of Rural Micro-enterprise development in Morocco

Water supply has always been a problem in rural areas and Morocco is no exception. Traditional supply methods don't work because large water supply companies are not interested in the low returns and margins involved. In 1996, the national office for drinking water began an initiative for rural water supply based on establishment of community -based micro-enterprises. This involves provision of micro-credit and training of young agents in technical and management skills for operations and maintenance, assistance in legal and administrative procedures for registering enterprises to access credit and marketing as well as other forms of assistance during an initial two-year start-up period.

Since 1990, micro enterprises have been installed each providing 10 to 15 jobs for local youth in rural areas in Morocco. A pilot project initiated in collaboration with UNDP and involving women-operated enterprises was also implemented focusing on quality control aspects and providing useful lessons on how best to mainstream and promote such enterprises. Other lessons have been applied to decentralize and simplify contracting and procurement procedures. The sustainability of the initiative is evidenced by growth of initial revolving fund, which is now being used for micro-enterprise start-ups in other sectors.

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Development of Informal Financial Institutions, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

The Association of Business Women of Uzbekistan was established with the aim to improve the status of women living in Uzbekistan and achieve economic empowerment of the population living in rural areas. In Uzbekistan, women make up 51% of the total population and 45.1% of the workforce. During the country’s economic transition, unemployment levels were high affecting the entire population and more so women. In 1997, the government halted the process of liberalization; foreign currency conversion was cancelled; governmental management of export and import operations and a strict system of taxation were introduced. The changes in the macro-economic policy resulted in feminization of poverty with women accounting for over 90 % of the unemployed persons; gender inequality in access to social services, labor-market and financial resources and a financial/bank system that did not support growth of the private sector.

To address this situation, the Association launched the “Integrated Program on Improvement of the Situation with Women in Rural Areas of Uzbekistan.” Taking into account the peculiarities of the rural Uzbek woman: low mobility; part time employment orientation; desire to work not far from home and prevalence of gender stereotypes, the program includes: education modules on legal issues; job training; professional development,;involvement of women in micro-finance and the establishment of credit unions. A "Legal integrated literacy of women" program was introduced to empower women. This programme was deemed necessary to counter the then existing stereotype that depicted women as being mere servants to their husbands without any rights. The Association partnered with Winrock International, USAID\Eurasia Fund and a network of local NGOs.

Over 12,000 women have been trained and 2,500 business women now have access to micro-credit.

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The Pride of Place Program, Australia

Australia has a Federal system of government. State Government is the middle level of 3 tiers of Government: Federal, State and Local. Victoria is the smallest and most densely populated state in Australia with a population of 5 million. Melbourne is the capital of Victoria and is dominated by the Yarra river. The Pride of Place Program was initiated to spread the benefits of good strategic planning and urban design to the whole of Victoria, in response to the visible decline of many suburban, regional and rural centres, and inspired by the successful urban revitalisation of central Melbourne.

State grants encourage Councils, working with their communities and urban design professionals, to develop visions and strategies for lively, economically sustainable, attractive and safe local centres. Councils are assisted to manage change, such as development pressures or industry decline, by reinforcing the attractiveness, unique character and cultural heritage of local centres. Successful applicants receive a Letter of Offer, and Terms and Conditions of the grant and this is important, to reduce the risk to the State of Councils defaulting on agreements after receiving funding. Projects have generated high levels of community support and pride through consultative and inclusive design processes. The Program fosters goodwill between the State Government, Councils and local communities. The projects also promote sustainable development, through the development of long-term strategies to manage global and local changes. The development of attractive towns and cities helps to retain and increase resident populations, and to attract more visitors.

Many projects in rural and regional locations have provided or strengthened existing recreation and tourist attractions, protecting the delicate balance between natural flora and fauna, and the intrusion of people through limiting access to protected areas, creating elevated boardwalks, and enhancing environmental awareness with signage at key points.

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Rural sustainable development project in the Valdorba district, Spain

This practice which began in 1990 is based in Valdorba in the Navarre Region of Spain. The population of Spain is 42.7 million (official figure, 2003), with a GNI per capita of US $14,580 (World Bank, 2002). Valdorba was characterised by serious demographic decline, emigration and an economy based on subsidised agriculture and fisheries, where maintaining and servicing 13 villages and managing their natural resources was an almost impossible task. The aim of the initiative was to promote local economic development through the rational use of local environmental resources.

Faced with a non-sustainable farming-based economy dependent on EU subsidies, alternative crops were considered, including truffles, aromatic plants and vegetables. Depopulation and aging of the population is being countered through social action policies. This was achieved through provision of improved infrastructure which has encouraged local people to stay on and attracted young families. Dependence on other urban areas for employment is gradually decreasing following the creation of local sources of income, including local enterprises, rural accommodation, catering, hunting and the services sector. A notable project is the sustainable eco-tourism which has emerged as the most suitable option for the valley’s needs. Valdorba mushrooms are exploited through sustainable tourism and/or business models, which have been a success. The truffle fairs held to date have received media coverage that reached over three million people.

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EnREDando jóvenes para el Desarrollo (Involving young people in Development). Argentina.

Argentina had a population 37,031,802 in 2000 and this is expected to grow by 12 % to 41,473,702 people by 2018. In the provinces of Jujuy, Misiones, Buenos Aires and San Juan, policies related to youth development were lacking especially in terms of skills development. It was especially difficult for young people to gain space and participate in the community’s institutions. This led to massive exodus of young people to urban centres and resulting in the premature ageing of small communities.

The NET Programme aims to involve young people in local development by developing their capacity to undertake needs assessment and to appropriately respond to issues that are identified. The programme builds the capacity of young people by training them to plan and manage different projects that improve the quality of life. This programme is a synergy between different tiers of government as well as among different sections of the organized communities. It consists of an open examination of local development project proposals, an offshoot of the educational process in which groups of young people belonging to community’s organizations from different cities and towns participate. Successful proposals are given seed funding after proving that they will be financially sustainable in the long run.

The training process involves non-formal education that has its basis on two different approaches: attending training sessions and a long distance process of education. The main aims of these projects are focused on promoting and establishing youth networks; building of human capacity to plan and manage development projects; encouraging and promoting communication between young people and their communities as a strategy to build participation; and maintaining an information system on the capacities possessed by various youth and members of the community.

Among achievements in the three provinces of Argentina: Misiones, Jujuy and Buenos Aires: approximately 300 groups of young people have participated so far in the programme while a further 1,000 young people have been trained; close to 6,000 young people have been directly involved in various programmes that range from health education to social and cultural programmes. Close to 34 municipalities have collaborated and helped sustain the programme.

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A Green Path to Sustainable Development of Marginal Drylands, Iran

Iran, population 68.9 million and per capita income of US $1,720, covers an area of 636,296 sq. miles. Oil exports account for around 80% of foreign exchange earnings as well as non-oil exports such as carpets. The Gareh Bygone Plain, a 6,000-hectare sandy desert in southern Iran annually receives 150mm of rain as opposed to 2860mm of ‘Class A’ pan evaporation. Freshwater scarcity, poor rangeland, and dust storms had caused migration of some nomads-turned-farmers from the Gareh Bygone Plain. The remaining women and children had to walk up to 6-km a day to fetch water resulting in back pain and miscarriages for the women and the lower school attendance for the children.

The initiative addresses the vicious cycle of poverty, desertification, and drought affecting the nomads in the Gareh Bygone Plains of Iran. The main objective of the initiative was desertification control through floodwater spreading for the artificial recharge of groundwater. Other objectives include planting of shade trees and fodder bushes as live windbreaks; deposition of the suspended load onto the moving sand; and provision of fuelwood which would discourage people from cutting trees and removing bushes on the watersheds, thus helping soil and water conservation. All of these activities, along with hiring of laborers and watchmen, would reverse the tide of migration.

Floodwater spreading has transformed a desert into verdant scenery. The program introduced programs for reforestation, community education and mobilization. A collaboration of central government, local authority, parastatals, non-government organizations, community-based organizations and academic institutions provided knowledge, resources and technology. After five years, results show that 8 million cubic meters of floodwater provided ample freshwater, fuel wood, and employment opportunities, and reduced work burden on women and children. The irrigated area has increased from 147 ha to 1,193 ha and this has provided income for 250 operators, and 95 hired labourers. Moreover, extra employment has been provided due to the annual production of 10 tons of honey. Its success led to a government policy adopting aquifer management as a program and allocated annual budget. It demonstrated the potential of annually harvesting 50 cubic kms of floodwaters could control desertification on 14 million hectares, supply irrigation water for 6 million hectares and provide jobs for 4 million people.

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Sand Dams of Kitui: Providing Potable & Production Water in Semi-Arid Lands of Kitui District, Kenya

Kitui district, with a population of 575,512 and per capita income of US$ 26, has agriculture as the main economic activity. The district is repeatedly hit by drought as it lacks infrastructure for retaining water in the catchment areas, as 80% of the received precipitation is lost as surface run-off. As a result, water resources are few and far apart in dry periods and people walk up to twenty kilometers to get water. The district suffers from food insecurity and has been a net importer of food.

The sand dam programme, undertaken by Sahelian Solutions Foundation Kenya (SASOL) aimed at increasing the availability of water by reducing the distance to water sources and avail adequate water for domestic and productive use within two kilometers of every household. SASOL works with local communities towards the alleviation of the persistent water problem by organizing and informing the community members about sand dams and their role in the construction. The community identifies sites and decides on the total number of sites it is capable of developing depending on availability of enough stones, sand and water. The site committee plans for activities at the site, supervises and monitors the work in progress; maintains site records, mobilizes the required local resources, stores and protects resources obtained externally, maintains technical staff assigned; and assures compliance of rules and regulations developed by the community.

The development of sand dams and water holding structures, terraces and contour bands on the land, has increased productive shallow wells from 2 to 39 to date. In total 376 sand dam sites have been developed in Kitui to date bringing water closer to households serving up to 200,000 inhabitants. The time saving on water chores for these inhabitants has been reduced from 5-10 hours to ½ - 1 hour in these areas as indicated by the community in Tungutu during their project impact assessment. This has boosted food security and economic activities have sprung up, such as bee keeping, brick manufacture and growing of vegetables and trees. This has improved the people’s livelihoods. Women and children are the principle beneficiaries in this development as they usually bear the burden of water chores.

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