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Local water governance in South Africa: to which extent participatory approaches facilitate multi-stakeholder negotiations? The Kat River Valley experience

Congress: 2008
Author(s): S. Farolfi, H. Gumede, K. Rowntree, N Jones, J. Burt,
S. Farolfi: Cirad, UMR G Eau - University of Pretoria J. Burt, H. Gumede & K. Rowntree: Rhodes University N Jones: Australian National University of Canberra

Keyword(s): Local Water Governance, Participatory Approaches, Multiple Stakeholders, Institutions, Companion Modelling, South Africa
AbstractIntroduction Post-Apartheid South Africa (SA) is facing the challenges of democratization in the use of natural resources. In the water sector, the National Water Act of 1998 introduced new principles such as decentralization of water management and subsidiarity between central and local institutions. New institutions for local water governance are being established: Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs) and Water Users Associations (WUAs). CMAs and WUAs will have to put in place processes of participatory decision-making and facilitate negotiation among water users having different socio-economic characteristics, unequal access to information and knowledge, different political influence and therefore a different capacity with regard to lobbying and negotiation. In this context, an action-research oriented approach aimed at facilitating local negotiation and common decision-making seems to be particularly appropriate. A community of researchers called ComMod (Companion Modelling) recently developed a scientific posture regarding the adoption of simulation models and role-playing games for assisting participatory management of natural resources. There are two main features of this approach. The first is to take into consideration, from the beginning of the modeling process, the stakeholders’ view of the studied problem. The second is to validate model hypothesis through the experience of the stakeholders. This results in an iterative process of comprehension, confrontation and analysis that involves local users, institutions and researchers. This iteration is also aimed at validating or refuting the tools, such as models and role-playing games, which will be adopted by stakeholders for local negotiation. The ComMod approach was adopted as one of the approaches to facilitating multi-stakeholder negotiations related to water allocation in a SA water catchment (the Kat River, in the Eastern Cape) where a WUA was recently established. Objectives The objective of the paper is to describe and assess the impacts of a participatory approach called Companion Modelling on selected aspects of the negotiation process taking place among local stakeholders in the Kat River Valley. Methodology The entire process of Companion Modelling in the Kat River Valley was monitored through step-by-step valuations such as interviews conducted by the research team with stakeholders during and at the end of each workshop. As part of a larger project conducted by a group of researchers based in France, a global assessment of the process was also run by external evaluators through interviews with the designers of the ComMod approach and with local participants. Results Step-by-step interviews and global assessment’s results are analysed and compared. A common framework for the interpretation of these outcomes is proposed following action-research related criteria. These criteria are, among others, collective learning, reflection and application of specific issues such as complexity, interaction of system components and irreversibility. Conclusions The proposed analysis will provide insights on the actual contribution of a participatory approach such as ComMod to facilitate multi-stakeholders’ negotiations around water allocation and governance in the Kat River Valley. Discussion and reflections on the appropriateness of a questionnaire-based survey to elicit social outcomes of such an approach will conclude the paper and alternative methods will be proposed.
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