Transect Walk

Brief Description (including a definition if possible)

A transect walk is a systematic walk along a defined path (transect) across the community/project area together with the local people to explore the water and sanitation conditions by observing, asking, listening, looking and producing a transect diagram. The transect walk is normally conducted during the initial phase of the fieldwork. It is best to walk a route, which will cover the greatest diversity in terms of water resources and sanitation infrastructure. The transect walk is conducted by the research team and community members. The information collected during the walk is used to draw a diagram or map based on which discussions are held amongst the participants. (Source: SSWM)

History (if applicable)

When to use

The transect is a tool to help us learn more details about the environmental, economic and social resources in a community. A transect is a sort of one-dimensional map of a line cut through a village. It depicts a cross-section of an area along which a number of issues are recorded. The purpose of a transect is to organise and refine spatial information and to summarise local conditions in the area. The information is gathered from direct observation while walking a straight line through the community.
(Source: FAO)

How to use

Organise 2 or 4 groups with a mix of participants such as women and men, young and old. Either the different participants can be asked to take different team members for separate transect walks, showing the areas of most importance to them, or, each group can have responsibility for a different topic while they all walk together. For example, one group may focus on soils, land use and cultivation, a second on trees, vegetation and water resources, and a third, on infrastructure, housing and services. Afterwards the groups share the information from their walks to construct the transect diagram(s) together.
Using the Village Resources Map, and the advice of the participants, choose a more-or-less straight line through the area. The line chosen should take in as many of the different physical zones, types of vegetation, land-use areas and sections of the community as possible. It is often a good idea to start from the highest point in the area. Depending on the size of the area to be covered and the nature of the terrain, a transect can be done on foot, animal, cart or motor vehicle. But the slower modes are preferable because they allow for greater observation.
Materials: Notebooks, pens, flip chart paper and markers.

Tips and Lessons Learnt

While on the transect, ask questions about each zone. Everything noted is written down as the transect proceeds. During the transect walk (or ride or drive) take time for brief and informal interviews with women and men met along the way. During these interviews, discuss the critical issues already identified by the RA team and ask whether there are other issues as well. One of the advantages of doing a transect is that often people are more willing to discuss sensitive issues such as land ownership patterns when they are away from the village. Allow sufficient time for the transect. It may take several hours.

Examples & Stories

Example: In the Gambia, transects were produced on separate walks with young men, old men, young women and old women so that priorities by both gender and age could be understood. The transects give attention to soil types, land use, interventions and problems. Differences in the transects reflect gender-based differences in activities and access to resources. For example, the women's transect emphasises the rice fields because rice production is traditionally the responsibility of women, for both food and income.

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