Local Participation in Transboundary Water Resources Management: The Case of Limpopo Basin, Zimbabwe
Fatch, Joanna June
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IWRM-led water reforms in southern Africa have emphasised the creation of new institutions with little explanation regarding how the institutions can effectively engage with stakeholders at different levels, especially at the local level. This is despite the fact that the subsidiarity principle, which advocates for water management to be undertaken at the lowest appropriate level, which can be taken as the local level, is well recognised in water resources management. The main objective of the study was to investigate the applicability of the subsidiarity principle, especially the concept of ‘local’ participation in the Limpopo Basin at different (regional, basin, national and local) levels. The study investigated how the SADC regional frameworks provided for local participation by analysing participation clauses/provisions in the SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses, the Regional Water Policy (RWP), the Regional Water Strategy (RWS), and the Regional Strategic Action Plans on Integrated Water Resources Development and Management (RSAP-IWRM). The appropriateness of basin agreements, as well national frameworks in relation to local participation in transboundary water resource management, was also examined. To investigate issues at the local level a sample of three wards in Shashe subcatchment of Mzingwane catchment in Zimbabwe was selected. Data was collected through key informants, focus group discussions and observations. As a framework which gives a guide on how shared watercourses can be managed in the region, the Protocol does not contain specific provisions for local participation. The study investigated the specifics of local participation in the Regional Policy and Strategy, the basin agreements, and national frameworks. While the RWP and RWS were found to contain some provisions for local participation the implementation details were lacking. Provisions for local participation at the basin level, as represented by the Technical Committee (LBPTC) were wanting. Provisions in the suggested basin institution (LIMCOM) were not realised because of non ratification of the agreement. Submissions of local people regarding how they can meaningfully participate in transboundary water resource management was based on practical realities: identification of stakeholder groups was according to water uses in the locality; stakeholder representation was based on the ward with the district level forming an intermediate level to the subcatchment and catchment level. There was a desire for direct participation at the basin level. The local model challenges the existing top-down approach to participation and shows how a bottom-up approach reflects the aspirations of the users.