Research Project


The Consortium formed by the International Center for Water Economics and Policy in Africa (IWEGA) at the University Eduardo Mondlane, the Center for Environmental Economics and Policy in Africa (CEEPA) at the University of Pretoria, and the Water Science and Policy Center (WSPC) at the University of California Riverside formulated and implemented the project titled "Water Governance Decentralization in Africa: a Framework for Reform Process and Performance Analysis". This project was funded jointly by the Water Research Commission of South Africa and the World Bank. The project was launched in April 2010 for a period of three years.


Among the four so-called Dublin principles (ICWE, 1992) representing the pillars of the worldwide acknowledged concept of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), stakeholders participation is the one calling for river basin management at the lowest appropriated level. This refers to the idea of decentralization of water policies implementation.
In other terms, following the subsidiary principle, the design and implementation of water management and allocation policies are transferred from the State to local institutions which are supposed to have a better knowledge of the catchment functioning and where representatives of local water stakeholders are allowed to negotiate and decide jointly water management strategies and measures to be put in place.
Most African countries voted their water laws in the last 15 years or so, and restructured their institutional and governance framework accordingly.
The process of water management decentralization in African countries is seen as a means of advancing river basin management at the lowest appropriate level. The very different stage of advancement in the African river basins agencies witnesses the difficulty of implementing decentralization in practice.
It seems necessary at this stage to understand why some water agencies have succeeded more than others, what are the variables involved in such reform process, which variables have a positive or a negative impact on the implementation of decentralization processes in the African water sector, and which variables could be affected by policy interventions and how. For this purpose, the proposed study intends to use and adapt to the local context an analytical framework developed in a similar context elsewhere.
The analytical framework intends to capture the factors likely to be related to river basin management success and generate hypotheses that could be tested in actual settings where river basin management had been attempted.
No similar quantitative analytical framework to understand the factors of success and failure of decentralized water governance has been applied to African catchments previously.

Objectives of the Project

The project aims at improving water institutions’ understanding of decentralization processes, and therefore their capacity to identify and foster those factors that have a positive impact on decentralization processes in the African water sector.

Specific objectives are:

* To provide knowledge about water decentralization processes in Africa. In particular to understand which variables have a positive or a negative impact on the implementation of decentralization processes in the African water sector, and which variables could be affected by policy interventions and how.
* To enable water sector decision-makers to identify and treat properly those hurdles hampering a transfer of water management actions to the lowest appropriate level.


We propose to use and adapt to the African context the analytical framework in Kemper et al. (2006), Dinar et al. (2007), and Blomquist et al. (2008), where they developed and implemented a comparative method that explains river basin management decentralization reform processes and their performance. The methodology allows both in depth case study analyses and quantitative estimates from a global (in our case regional) set of river basins attempting decentralization (Dinar et al., 2007).
In the proposed study we suggest to apply the analytical framework in two phases. In the first phase the case study approach in Blomquist et al. (2008) will be applied to a small sample of basin organizations across the Southern Africa region, representing various physical, economic and political situations. These basins, one in South Africa, one in Mozambique and one in Zimbabwe, underwent decentralization reforms. The first phase will allow also a careful survey of all relevant basins to be analyzed in the second phase of the study. While the case study analyses highlight the direction in decentralization of river basin management, they do not allow the identification of generic reasons and forces behind the decentralization process and performance. Thus a quantitative analysis applied to the decentralization of basins in Africa will take place in the second phase of the study. The two-phase approach will allow a careful modification of the set of variables used in the econometric study in Dinar et al. (2007) by adjusting the questionnaire to conditions prevailing in Africa. It will lead to an in-depth analysis of the decentralization performance and identify the reasons for it.
The proposed basins for the case-study analysis are: the Inkomati in South Africa (SA part), Ara Sul in Mozambique, and the Umzingwane in Zimbabwe. These catchments, all situated in the Southern Africa region, were chosen because they have all been exposed to a certain degree of institutional decentralization (establishment of CMAs, creation of basin authorities, WUAs etc.). For transboundary catchments, only the national component was considered.


The Water Research Commission (WRC) of South Africa
The World Bank

Project Team
Dr. Joao Mutondo, Post Doc, IWEGA/University E. Mondlane. Project co-ordinator

Prof Ariel Dinar, WSPC, Senior Scientist
Prof Rashid Hassan, CEEPA, Senior Scientist
Prof Stefano Farolfi, CIRAD/IWEGA, Senior Scientist


National Teams:


South Africa
Terence Kunda Chibwe, MSc Student, University of Pretoria
Dr. Magalie Bourblanc, Supervisor, CIRAD/CEEPA
Prof. Johann Kirsten, co-Supervisor, University of Pretoria

Manuel Matsinhe, MSc Student, University of Pretoria
Prof. Emilio Tostao, Supervisor, IWEGA/UEM
Prof. Eric Mungatana, co-Supervisor, CEEPA


Gift Musinake, MSc Student, University of Zimbabwe
Prof. Vupenyu Dzingirai, Supervisor, University of Zimbabwe

Workshops and Meetings

* Inception Workshop, University of Pretoria, 12 April 2010

Publications and Reports

* Project Document



Dr. Joao Enganado Mutondo

International Center for Water Economics and Governance in Africa
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