Water Supply and Sanitation Practices in Nigeria: Applying Local Ecological Knowledge to Understand Complexity

Emmanuel Akpabio, Saravanan V. Subramanian

    Research output: Working paper/PreprintWorking paper


    For many years, tremendous efforts have been made to link important diseases and epidemics to water supply and sanitation practices in a manner that focus mostly on understanding and breaking the various chains and channels of diseases transmission pathways. Such efforts paid off and led to significant breakthroughs in drinking water supplies and sanitation coverage most especially in developed countries. However, such scientific efforts became lost in providing adequate explanatory framework for understanding complex environmental health issues arising from water supplies and sanitation practices in Africa. In this working paper, a broad framework of Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) is utilized in accounting for the contribution of the diversities of cultural, socio‐economic, physical‐environmental and temporal factors in explaining water and sanitation practices in Africa. The framework sees the human‐environment relationship more from the transactive, than interactive, point of view. It proceeds, on the basis of such broad assumption, to offer a structure for thinking of the specific roles of such contexts as beliefs, physical location, exposure, age, education, economic position, emotion, values, norms, meanings, perceptions, spirituality etc. in determining water and sanitation practices of individuals and groups with a specific case study drawn from southern Nigeria. Consequently, important water and sanitation practices and behaviours were highlighted to reflect various contextual influences of physical/ environmental, socio‐economic and cultural factors. The empirical research offers insight on how intervention targets could be successfully framed both in the immediate and long‐term perspectives. By incorporating a multiplicity of complex ecological health issues, the LEK framework offers both a conceptual and methodological basis for understanding the complex health geographies of developing countries especially in Africa.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationBonn
    PublisherUniversity of Bonn
    Number of pages43
    Publication statusPublished - May 2012

    Publication series

    NameZEF Working Paper Series
    PublisherUniversity of Bonn
    ISSN (Electronic)1864-6638


    • Local Ecological knowledge
    • Water
    • Sanitation
    • Contexts
    • Nigeria


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