Lack of access to safe water disproportionately affects school-aged children of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, better access to safe water is assumed to free children from the burden of fetching water and to increase their likelihood of attending school. However, the short-term impact of groundwater development on the burden of water collection and schooling outcome requires further examination.
This study examines the short-term impact of better access to safe water from newly built boreholes on the health, schooling outcome, and time allocation on a variety of activities of children in rural Zambia. It employed a difference-in-difference estimation using a dataset collected under a quasi-experimental setting. The study deduced that having better access to improved water sources reduced the incidence of diarrhea among pre-school children, but not in school-aged children. Conversely, no such significant effect was observed on school attendance.
To understand the mechanism underlying this result, the study conducted a time-use survey. The findings revealed that, for girls, particularly those living near the boreholes, better access to safe water significantly reduced time allocated for schooling and homework, but increased the time allocated on water-related household chores, including water collection. However, no significant changes were observed for boys. Furthermore, the study observed a significant decrease in time allocation for water-related chores among female adults. This result indicates that better access to improved water supply shifted the burden of water-related household chores from female adults to girls, whereas the net burden of water collection alone for girls was unchanged.
This study is part of a project entitled “Empirical Research in Africa,” which was conducted by the JICA Ogata Sadako Research Institute for Peace and Development. It was published in the Journal of Development Studies in February 2022.