Challenging Hydrological Panaceas: Water poverty governance accounting for spatial scale in the Niger River Basin
© 2014 . Water poverty in the Niger River Basin is a function of physical constraints affecting access and supply, and institutional arrangements affecting the ability to utilise the water resource. This distinction reflects the complexity of water poverty and points to the need to look beyond technical and financial means alone to reduce its prevalence and severity. Policy decisions affecting water resources are generally made at a state or national level. Hydrological and socio-economic evaluations at these levels, or at the basin level, cannot be presumed to be concordant with the differentiation of poverty or livelihood vulnerability at more local levels. We focus on three objectives: first, the initial mapping of observed poverty, using two health metrics and a household assets metric; second, the estimation of factors which potentially influence the observed poverty patterns; and third, a consideration of spatial non-stationarity, which identifies spatial correlates of poverty in the places where their effects appear most severe. We quantify the extent to which different levels of analysis influence these results. Comparative analysis of correlates of poverty at basin, national and local levels shows limited congruence. Variation in water quantity, and the presence of irrigation and dams had either limited or no significant correlation with observed variation in poverty measures across levels. Education and access to improved water quality were the only variables consistently significant and spatially stable across the entire basin. At all levels, education is the most consistent non-water correlate of poverty while access to protected water sources is the strongest water related correlate. The analysis indicates that landscape and scale matter for understanding water-poverty linkages and for devising policy concerned with alleviating water poverty. Interactions between environmental, social and institutional factors are complex and consequently a comprehensive understanding of poverty and its causes requires analysis at multiple spatial resolutions.
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