Mobilizing Coping Resources of Households for Urban Water Security in Sub-Saharan Africa

Project Team

Elijah Bisung (Queen’s University)

Isaac Luginaah (University of Western Ontario)

Vincent Kuu-ire (University of Toronto Mississauga)

Dr. Elias Kuusaana (University of Development Studies, Ghana)

Sarah Dickin (Stockhom Environment Institute)

Pascal Dery (ProNet North, Ghana)


SSHRC Insight Development Grant 2018-2020


Access to safe water is fundamental to population wellbeing and societal progress. Yet, close to 844 million people, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, lack access to a basic drinking water source. Though much progress was made in the past two decades to address water insecurity in this region, the urban poor in almost all Sub-Saharan African countries were largely neglected, with access to piped water declining by almost 10% in some countries. In the face of these disparities, urban poor households resort to different sources of water for daily survival, including relying on kiosks or water vendors, bottled water, shallow wells, community boreholes, and tanker services. Accessing water from theses sources often depend on household level of resources and assets, including tangible assets, such as labor and human capital, less familiar productive assets such as bicycles, as well as intangible assets, such as household relations and social capital.

While these resources and assets are documented in the literature, what we do not know, and the evidence urgently needed, is how to mobilize them into assets for addressing water insecurity and safe water challenges.  Because of this knowledge gap, stakeholders do not have adequate tools to design contextually relevant interventions that tap into and build on existing community resources to address urban water insecurity.


This research will address the following objectives:

(1) to identify individual and community level patterns and distribution of water insecurity coping strategies and resources;

(2) to examine pathways for mobilizing and using local coping and adaptation resources to address water insecurity; and

(3) to examine the socio-political factors that influence urban inequalities in access to safe water.

The research will meet these objectives through comparative case studies in two cities of diverse population and socio-economic characteristics (Accra and Tamale) in Ghana. Diverse city sizes are chosen to assess variations in exposure to water insecurity, coping resources, water delivery institutional systems, and urban access dynamics.


  • Quantitative survey of active water collectors in four poor neighborhoods in two diverse cities in Ghana to assess variations in water insecurity, coping resources, water delivery institutional systems, and urban access dynamics
  • A group concept mapping exercise with a broad range of stakeholders and community leaders in each city to gather in-depth information on how to intervene in order to bring about change