P 46

Glocal (Dis)connections of Values, Ideals, and Practices of Water Management in Africa

Panel abstract
Water sector professionals at the International Conference on Water and the Environment in Dublin (1992) and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro (1992) set a number of guiding principles to be translated into urgent action programs for water and sustainable development. These principles include concepts such as integrated water resource management (IWRM), which stresses increased stakeholder participation, community-based management, the importance of gender equality, as well as the economic valorization of water. With the institutionalization of these ideas within the global arena, various African states have developed and introduced different national policies and programs in the last two decades to reform their water sectors correspondingly. The aim of the panel is to address the translation politics generated through such global-local policy and developmental currents from perspectives which foreground questions of local agency, creativity, and power. The contributions discussed focus on the following questions:

  • To which extent have these blue-print legislations been adopted, transformed, ignored, or rejected within different rural and urban African localities?
  • How do local agents translate top-down legislation and through which practices? What effect do these blue-prints and the ideas they embody have on peoples’ everyday lives, on political and social practices or the way water is valued, managed, accessed, or known?
  • And do translations resemble local knowledge practices, values, and perspectives with regards to the distribution and use of water or contested ideas of community, participation, and gender equality?

We thus aim to explore the connections and disconnections between local, national, and global notions, ideals, and practices of water management; to examine the tensions, conflicts, and harmonies between local and global perspectives as well as to analyse the consequences and implications of these processes.

Time: Saturday, 30/06/2018, 8.30 - 10.30 pm
Venue: Hörsaalgebäude, HS 18

Diego Augusto Menestrey Schwieger (University of Cologne)

Maria Kondra and Antje Bruns (University of Trier)
Emmanuella C. Onyenechere (Imo State University, Owerri, Nigeria)
Diego Augusto Menestrey Schwieger (University of Cologne)
Alba Rossella (University of Trier)


Paper abstracts

Maria Kondra and Antje Bruns
The Wetland as a Source for Livelihood or Place for Conservation: Exploring the Generation and Articulation of Ecosystem Services in Ghana

Wetlands are globally some of the most vital and valuable ecosystems that deliver a variety of benefits and services to people, but are particularly vulnerable today. Encroachment and degradation can be accounted as the main drivers for socio-ecological change. Wetlands are also under threat in Ghana – yet protected for instance by the Ramsar Convention, a multilateral environmental agreement. Using a place-based approach, we present a case study where we assess ecosystem services based on stakeholders’ perceptions in a coastal wetland in Accra. Moreover, we show how these services are articulated by the local communities and how future degradation is perceived to affect the sustainable livelihoods they derive from this ecosystem. All interviewed stakeholders play an active role in the management of their respective wetland, as well as others who depend directly or indirectly for their livelihoods on the wetland. Our results show that a number of ecosystem services identified by different stakeholders are tied to the context of this particular place and become its own source of knowledge influenced by different elements. Certain ecosystem services have been, for example, widely popularized as the moral responsibility due to the fact that the wetland is a Ramsar site. We show how services can become constructed and perceived as socially relevant, not always directly meeting the community's daily needs. We discuss our results by highlighting how local communities can respond to meet global conservation/environmental challenges and inform global policies.

Emmanuella C. Onyenechere
Government (Dis)Connection with other Stakeholders in Urban Water Reform in Owerri, Nigeria

Many Nigerian cities like Owerri face severe water crisis. Plans are underway to improve the situation within the third national urban water sector reform programme. Unfortunately, the Water Resources Bill 2017, which has only passed second reading in the National Assembly, is yet to be passed into law. This paper focuses on the connections between government and other stakeholders in water sector reforms. Specifically it examines past and present urban water sector reforms to ascertain how the top-down strategy adopted by government and its policy makers is perceived by different interest groups among the stakeholders. A structured questionnaire was used to obtain information from 450 respondents. The data obtained were analysed quantitatively and qualitatively. From the study it was deduced that though policy makers see water reform as a tool for addressing institutional weaknesses in the water sector, and as a springboard for creating an enabling environment for better water service provision, the stakeholders vary in their perception of and response to water reform involving privatization. Some stakeholders (60.2%) see water as a public good and believe that water reform would involve financial commitments, such as payment of water tariff which many Nigerian citizens do not like to pay. On the other hand, the well-off citizens (23. 3%) appears to be willing to pay if water reforms imply improved water provision. The latter are advocating for the institution of mechanisms for obtaining feedbacks from citizens about the quality of water delivery when the reform is fully adopted.

Diego Augusto Menestrey Schwieger
Beyond ‘Blueprints’ and Institutional Robustness: a Case Study on the Dynamics and ‘Successful’ Practices of Communal Water Management in a Pastoral Community in Northern Kunene, Namibia

The literature on common pool resources (CPR) management emphasizes the importance of ‘robust’ institutions and sets of specific ‘design principles’ as the key to promote collective action and obtain socio-ecological sustainability. Such principles have been embraced and translated by the independent Namibian state into blueprints for community-based management programmes in the rural water sector since the late 1990s. However, up to now little is known concerning the extent to which these blueprints are adopted and whether they effectively promote collective action to guarantee the water supply at the local level. Drawing on a case study of a pastoral community in semi-arid northwest Namibia, this article has two main objectives: 1) to describe and discuss which of the Namibian state’s guidelines for communal water management are adopted by the local actors, which are not, and why; and 2) to show the local practices and mechanisms beyond these guidelines that de facto maintained the water supply in the settlement instead. Consequently, the paper has a two-fold argument: that the blueprints developed by the Namibian state for communal water management disregard local realities, institutions, and practices; and that the CPR literature has not paid careful attention to further and more complex mechanisms that also ensure the availability of a commonly administered resource in a communal setup, such as individual commitment and personhood.

Alba Rossella
Conflicting or Co-Existing? Infrastructural Ideals and Everyday Practices of Water Vending in Accra

The ‘networked city’ ideal has profoundly influenced investments in infrastructure, policies, and institutional arrangements surrounding urban water supply. Although large-scale networks centrally managed by a public (or private) utility remain influential governance models and infrastructural ideals for attaining universal access to basic services, their dominance is challenged by the persisting inequalities and ‘stubborn realities’ of sub-Saharan African cities. In Accra, for example, a wide array of water vendors, tanker operators, and retailers work at the side of the only formally recognized state-owned water utility. Despite their long standing presence, hybrid forms of water provision and heterogeneous infrastructure configurations are often referred to as an exception temporarily tolerated as part of a long term development process that will eventually lead to their disappearance. This paper focuses on the emergence of differentiated water service providers as a case to explore the tensions between globally circulating infrastructural ideals and local realities of service provision. It analyses how local authorities, state officials, international actors, and urban residents facilitate or halt forms of infrastructural coexistence by mobilizing a range of socio-technical, spatial, and regulatory strategies. It argues that these strategies are key for controlling the flow of water across the city and for negotiating the boundaries between legal and illegal, accepted and rejected, formal and informal, networked and fragmented. It is argued that an attention to the everyday politics of water provides a lens to uncover how ideals are translated through quotidian negotiations and makeshift practices.