Small towns and cities in Sub-Saharan Africa are emerging as hotspots of population growth. This paper considers the case of the small but rapidly growing town of Bondo in the Lake Victoria region of Kenya, and its surrounding peri-urban and rural settlements. The study objectives are to examine: a) alternative indicators of households’ accessibility to improved water sources along the urban-rural gradient; b) households’ water collection and storage practices; and c) women’s involvement in community-level efforts to improve water-service provision. Data were collected through interviews of 307 women from urban, peri-urban and rural settlements in 2011. By studying different kinds of settlements in the same geographical region, the paper shows how each kind has its own unique characteristics and development needs. Results show that peri-urban settlements are not just an intermediate space between the rural and the urban; instead, these settlements pose very different kinds of challenges than those of their rural and urban counterparts. Despite efforts by donor and government agencies to promote participation among women, study results indicate that women participate only marginally, with lowest participation observed among women from peri-urban areas. Innovative ways that agencies can engage more women to improve water service are discussed.
Keys words: Water accessibility, urbanization, Sub-Saharan Africa, gender, secondary urban centers, Kenya.
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