When participation is not enough. Lessons from decentralised water governance in Namibia
In semi-arid parts of Southern Africa, such as Namibia, water resources are already under pressure, and things will get tougher in future as the climate becomes hotter, drier and less predictable. To help manage water resources, since the 1990s governments across semi-arid Africa have introduced decentralised water reforms.
Decentralisation aims to shift responsibility for water provision and management across levels so that local actors are also involved. In reality, though, decentralisation has not had the desired impacts of inclusive water governance and effective participation. This is because decentralisation efforts have paid insufficient attention to strengthening the capacity of local actors.
Lessons from ASSAR’s research in rural villages in north-central Namibia show how decentralised water governance is not effective without proper support for citizens. Expecting local management and participation without providing support on how to participate can actually make it more challenging for vulnerable communities to access and manage water.