The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 217–234 | Cite as

Implications of Environmental Chores for Schooling: Children’s Time Fetching Water and Firewood in Tanzania

  • Deborah Levison
  • Deborah S. DeGraff
  • Esther W. Dungumaro


In many developing countries, children devote substantial time to collecting firewood and fetching water. Is there a connection between such time-consuming work and children’s schooling? If so, environmental degradation may have serious detrimental implications for children’s education. To explore this question, this case study set in rural Tanzania uses evidence collected from children and their mothers about children’s environmental chores. Although the sample is small, we find some descriptive quantitative evidence as well as qualitative evidence from focus groups with children supporting such a link, consistent with the results from the few econometric analyses set in Africa. We also document substantial demands by schools for students to fetch water. The proposed conceptual framework takes into account confounding factors including school-related violence, which affected more than one-third of the children in this study. We make a case for future research based on larger data collection projects designed to explore these issues more fully.


Tanzania schooling environmental chores child labor natural resource collection water fuel wood 

Dans beaucoup de pays en développement, les enfants passent du temps important à chercher du bois et de l’eau. Y a-t-il un lien entre de telles activités prenantes et l’éducation des enfants ? Si c’est le cas, la dégradation environnementale peut avoir des implications graves pour l’éducation des jeunes. Pour explorer cette question, cette étude, effectuée en Tanzanie rurale, se sert d’évidence recueillie directement d’enfants et de leurs mères au sujet de leur travail environnemental. Bien que l’échantillon soit petit, nous y trouvons de l’évidence descriptive et quantitative aussi bien que de l’évidence qualificative ramassée de groupes de discussion d’enfants soutenant un tel lien concordant avec les résultats d’analyses économétriques entreprises en Afrique. Nous décrivons aussi de nombreuses demandes de la part des écoles aux élèves de chercher de l’eau. Le cadre conceptuel proposé tient compte d’éléments confondants tels que la violence à l’école, qui avait touché plus d’un tiers des élèves dans cette étude. Nous présentons des arguments pour de la recherche future basée sur des projets de collection d’information plus importants conçus pour explorer plus profondément ces problèmes.



Funding from the University of Minnesota (International Collaborative Seed Grant, Office of International Programs, 2010) made data collection possible. We acknowledge NIH Center Grant R24HD041023 for support from the Minnesota Population Center. We are grateful to Savannahs Forever Tanzania, its Director Susan James, and an excellent field team including Edward Sandet, Fenela Msangi, Gloria Mollel, Felix Shayo, David Mollel, Gerald Mollel and Majory Kaziya Silisyene; research assistance from Harshada Karnik is also appreciated. Thanks for comments from Nicholas Nagle, participants at the Humphrey School’s Global Policy seminar, and especially Michael Bourdillon.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah Levison
    • 1
  • Deborah S. DeGraff
    • 2
  • Esther W. Dungumaro
    • 3
  1. 1.Humphrey School of Public AffairsUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsBowdoin CollegeBrunswickUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Development StudiesUniversity of Dar-es-SalaamDar-es-SalaamTanzania

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