An example of how context influenced the stewardship practice of installing and using rainwater tanks in Cata, Eastern Cape
In Cata people use rainwater tanks because the tanks were given to them by external funders. They chose to construct them in a particular way because the village is on a slope. There were training programmes that taught people how to build and set up rainwater tanks and linked this with home food gardens. People value the water in these rainwater tanks because they feel it is of a better quality than the water from community taps. The tank water is therefore reserved for household use rather than used for gardens. Other people in the village who do not have rainwater tanks want them because the younger generation no longer want to fetch water from the river.
All of this is forms the context in which a practice happens. This context influences a practice. In a context where rainwater tanks are not paid for by funding agencies, people don’t receive the same training and the landscape is different, so the practice of accessing and using water may be different.
As you can see from the above example, what influences a practice is more than just what is happening in an area, for example the fact that Cata village is on a hill and that there are certain generational changes that influence fetching water. There are also things that happen outside the community that effect the context such as international donor organisations who paid for the project that brought the rainwater tanks and that the quality of tap water is bad. You can also see from this example that a context is made up of people, cultures, histories, institutions and environment.
All our actions and everything we think exists in a context, even such a simple thing as drinking water. As a human being we are surrounded by layers of context that we influence and that influence us. One of these layers is national policy and even international policy.