Desktop versionMobile version

Eaux, pauvreté et crises sociales

Habib Ayeb
Thierry Ruf

Encarts spéciaux. Témoignages des ONG

IUCN ROSA Experiences in Water Resources Management in Southern Africa

Bertha Nherera

Full text

About IUCN and Rosa

1The World Conservation Union brings together, 1,000 members (states, government agencies, NGOs and affiliates) from 140 countries and 10,000 scientists from around the world. IUCN has 42 offices around the world and its HQ in Switzerland. A Regional Office for southern Africa (Rosa) is based in Harare, Zimbabwe (fig. 1). IUCN Vision is to be a world class partner for greater environmental and human security in Africa.

Issues and challenges of Water Resources Management (WRM) in Southern Africa

Water scarcity

2Water demand is over water supply and the main causes deal with population growth and urbanization, climate change and variability, degradation of catchments, contamination of existing water supplies, traditional approaches of focusing on supply of water, failure to manage demand and no widespread culture of water conservation.

Figure 1. IUCN ROSA countries

Figure 1. IUCN ROSA countries

Figure 2. Water resources distribution in some SADC countries (1995)

Figure 2. Water resources distribution in some SADC countries (1995)

3Water scarcity is increasing with competing water demands. More than 50% of the available water resources is used in irrigated agriculture. Irrigation places the highest demand on water. Water use efficiency in agriculture is very low.

Vulnerability of water resources to climate change

4Climate change is one of the constraints facing the water sector in the region. Surface temperature of over 2 degrees is expected. Increase evapotranspiration rates is resulting in the reduction of the potential water availability and agricultural production. Annual rainfall decrease by up to 5% is expected. Wet season will shorten and become less reliable.


5Drought is a frequent event in Southern Africa. Drought conditions trigger serious hydrological imbalances leading to loss or damage to crops, shortage of water for people, livestock and wildlife, famine and disease. 1991/92 and 1994/95 droughts resulted in the loss of 49,000 agricultural jobs and 20,000 formal sector jobs in nonagricultural sectors: annual and perennial crop losses, damage to crop quality, income loss for farmers due to reduced crop yields, reduced productivity of cropland and increased insect infestation (such as the army worm and locusts), and plant disease. Costs and losses to livestock producers are due to reduced rangeland productivity.


6Southern Africa has experienced frequent floods also in the past decade. The floods of 2000 caused by cyclone Eline caused considerable damage to property and infrastructure, especially bridges, rail network, water systems etc. Estimated cost of damage in Zimbabwe amounting to US $ 3.1 million is affecting different sectors of the economy (health, water and sanitation, food and agriculture, education, infrastructure and communications). The cyclone affected directly or indirectly an estimated 2.7 million people comprising of the vulnerable group, particularly women, children and the old located in the rural areas.

7Thus, Southern Africa is characterized by;

  • overexploitation of water and related resources;
  • poor institutional arrangements;
  • policy deficiencies and weaknesses;
  • inadequate regulatory and legal frameworks;
  • access to safe water supplies and sanitation;
  • invasion of alien plant species.

IUCN ROSA’s contribution to the Southern Africa’s WRM issues and challenges

8IUCN is promoting adaptation strategies for floods and droughts by mapping of flood prone areas and safe areas in different flood events, by the establishment of early warning system against floods in partnership with relevant government institutions. IUCN gives recommendations on constructing appropriate bridges and works, on planning and promoting community irrigation schemes with the communities.

9IUCN is promoting water demand management. We have implemented a regional project since 1997, which first studied WDM being applied in the region. We have created awareness on the need for WDM and we have presented and promoted the various WDM strategies that are being used in the Southern Africa region.

Policy, legal and institutional strategies

10Implementation of WDM requires a good enabling environment in terms of policy, legal and institutional structures. Recently there have been efforts towards putting this enabling environment in place. The concept of WDM is now generally on the policy agenda in Southern Africa. SADC regional water policy and strategy has a chapter on WDM. Regional water strategy advocates for the development and promoting of WDM guidelines at regional and national levels.

11National water bill defines conservation as the efficient use and saving of water achieved through water-saving devices, water efficiency processes, WDM and water rationing.

12WDM is covered under the water conservation and demand management national strategy framework, which among other things emphasize water conservation and demand management measures.

Promoting water demand management

13IUCN involves the use of incentives and disincentives that influence the behavior of users directly and encourage more careful use of the resource through market mechanisms such as price charges, tariffs-block tariff system (Orangemund-Namibia; Botswana has an approach towards rising block tariffs; Zimbabwe) and pollution charges (Hermanus, South Africa). Non-market mechanisms are also included such as application of standards, quotas, fines on water use and restrictions.

14We promote technical strategies like maximum reuse of water, guidelines for handling urbanization, lowering of unaccounted for water (Windhoek, lining of canals South Africa aquifer recharge). Operational water supply system and wet industries are used to manage water demand.

15Awareness campaigns are organized with education programs e.g in schools, consumer advisory services, water information telephone hotline, media coverage, newsletters, incorporating water consumption information on monthly water bill.

16Important guidelines are produced through the SIDA supported by IUCN ROSA WDM project:

  • policy makers and regulators;
  • bulk suppliers of untreated water;
  • bulk suppliers of potable water;
  • municipal water supply agencies;
  • subsistence farming and dense rural community settlement;
  • large scale irrigators;
  • users of industrial process water;
  • river basin and catchment management organizations;
  • monitoring and evaluation of water demand management programmes.

17ROSA is promoting the ecosystems approach looking after the resource base “A strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way“ (fig. 3).

18The approach emphasizes the need to recognize the environment as a legitimate user of water as well as a provider of water (fig. 4).

19ROSA is supporting the development of the Integrated Okavango Delta Management Plan which involves different stakeholders. (Also management planning processes for other weltand areas). It is raising awareness on importance of environmental flows and is supporting EF assessments and implementation.

20We are training workshops on wetlands management (modules on definition, nature, and extent of wetlands; roles, values, threats to wetlands; wetland inventories; socioeconomic assessments, monitoring, economic valuation of goods and services; integrated wetland management, framework for wetlands policy and legislation and institutional arrangements).

21ROSA promotes appropriate policy and institutional arrangements for wetlands management and livelihoods from wetlands, like facilitating dialogues/consultations amongst Zambezi basin stakeholders to discuss issues and challenges faced by the shared basin, or promoting community enterprises based on wetlands goods and services at the same time looking after the resource base in the Zambezi Basin.

22ROSA gives analysis of policies and institutional arrangements, incentives and disincentives for natural resources conservation in the shared basins Zambezi (8 countries), Okavango (3 countries) and their dissemination to aid decision making.


  • There is need to continue looking after the resource base so that it can continue providing us with water and also to recognize that it is also a legitimate user of water which needs to be considered when allocating water amongst other users.
  • Integrated management is not easy. It is complex as it involves a number of stakeholders with different interests. It therefore requires time and human and financial resources.
  • There has been decrease in funding of ‘soft issues’, ‘less tangible’ things that provides the enabling environment. There is need to continue supporting these if we are to meet the MDG on environmental sustainability.
  • Most research tends to focus on bio-physical issues. There is need to also increase emphasis on policy, institutional arrangements issues. There is need to focus also on action-oriented activities that address problems. For example coming up with irrigation schemes that can be managed by communities as a way of adapting to drought. Making water accessible in rural areas by drilling boreholes, building dams etc. Promoting WDM in urban areas and Agric sector.

List of illustrations

Title Figure 1. IUCN ROSA countries
File image/jpeg, 68k
Title Figure 2. Water resources distribution in some SADC countries (1995)
File image/jpeg, 48k
Title Figure 3
File image/jpeg, 44k
Title Figure 4
File image/jpeg, 27k


Water Programme, IUCN, The World Conservation Union, Harare – Zimbabwe

© IRD Éditions, 2009

Terms of use:

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search