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Analysis of ways to improve water supplies for sedentary cattle-owning communities: a case study in Rwebisengo, Sub-county of Bundibugyo District, Uganda
Water resources management is a particular challenge for cattle-owning communities. Rwebisengo Sub-County lies in Bundibugyo District in Western Uganda. This rural region is water-stressed because water access can be limited regarding quantity and quality, and the conventional technologies present challenges of sustainability. As cattle husbandry firmly remains the primary source of livelihoods, and transhumant pastoralism is the predominant farming system, animals and the mobility involved in the search for pasture and water are other elements of the challenge. The present study aimed to assess the extent of the water challenge for both domestic and animal consumption. Its objectives were to: (1) understand the attitudes of those pastoralist communities towards water, (2) critique the declared Government and NGOs policies in the light of the realities and needs identified, and (3) appraise the potential for the development of self-supply. These objectives were achieved through semistructured interviews and observations. The research clearly found that in this flat and dry area, watering livestock shapes the way the communities manage water. Open shallow hand-dug wells are the main water source for both humans and animals. While their access and maintenance are generally within the capacity of the communities, their reliability and water quality present a lot of weaknesses. In parallel, the conventional rural supplies, such as deep boreholes, remain externally financed and often end up being abandoned. Alongside the self-supply initiatives which exist in the study area, Government policies fall under three key strategies: decentralisation, privatisation, and a demand-responsive approach with full community responsibility for water supply operation and maintenance. However, the implementation and monitoring of Government strategies show numerous shortcomings on the ground. The gap can be bridged especially by providing incremental support to self-supply, while continuing to develop conventional water supplies with significant community empowerment and follow-up in order to achieve sustainability.