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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Bruna, Sean

Second Advisor

Hammond, Joyce D., 1950-

Third Advisor

Koetje, Todd A.


This participatory action research (PAR) thesis project explores the implications of limited water access in the daily lives of members of the Teso tribe (Iteso) living in Amukura, a small rural village located in Busia County in western Kenya, and seeks to provide actionable recommendations to their water access challenges. Access to clean water is a critical issue in Kenya, examined by global aid and development practitioners as well as anthropologists. One in five people in Kenya do not have access to improved water (WHO 2012). In Amukura, the Iteso’s access to water is worse, due to the village’s geographical position and erratic regional weather patterns. I argue that in order for water to reach local communities, future development projects should assess four aspects of water use: seasonality, water fetching practices, water priorities, and water sanitation practices. To support this, findings argue that (1) the taxonomy of local water use must be understood and implemented in any water project, (2) water projects should be local, community-based development solutions, and (3) other small scale and unique challenges should be addressed.

The goal of this study was to involve members of the community by actively engaging them in seeking solutions for improved water access. In participation with an Iteso village leader and community activist in Amukura during one month of intensive field research, the following questions were identified for exploration: 1) What are the current issues related to water in Amukura? 2) How can the Iteso’s current water issues be addressed in a sustainable and culturally appropriate manner? These questions aimed to critique the current global development practices, which are top down and donor-centric; the perspective of those being served by aid, such as the Iteso in Amukura, is often neglected in international aid discourse. Presently, there are several NGOs (non-governmental organizations) on the ground tackling the issue of water access and health. However, the emic (insider’s) perspective is absent from their discourses, prescriptions and programs.

In order to include community voice in the study, PAR – a democratized method of research, which gives research participants agency – was utilized, along with a variety of applied methodologies designed to examine the Iteso’s water realities and the current NGO policies and strategies applied in the village. PAR theory and methods seek to elevate the perspective of the Iteso people and incorporate them into the discourse on water and aid in their community. This was accomplished through photovoice – a PAR tool that elicits the perspective of traditionally marginalized people through photography. Seventeen Iteso men and women, selected by my community-based partner, took pictures of their water use and practices, giving voice to their experiences, and eliciting inter- and intra-group comparisons between villagers, local NGOs and government officials. In addition to PAR theory and methods, development praxis and the empirical and ethnographic tools of anthropology were also used to create culturally adapted solutions to Amukura’s water crisis. This thesis project can serve as a potential design for the implementation and development of these water solutions in the future.




development praxis, NGOs, sustainable solutions, community-based, participatory action research, photovoice, Iteso, water uses, water practices, seasonality, global development, international aid, farmers, post-colonialism, drought, dry season, climatic change


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Water-supply, Rural--Kenya--Busia County; Sanitation, Rural--Kenya--Busia County; Rural development projects--Kenya--Busia County; Teso (African people)--Kenya--Busia County; Teso (African people)--Citizen participation; Applied anthropology--Kenya--Busia County

Geographic Coverage

Busia County (Kenya)




masters theses




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