News / 11 June 2013

Negotiated Approach in Africa: motivation without funds

Recently six volunteers travelled to Africa to conduct a research for Both ENDS on how the Negotiated Approach is put into practice within Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM).The Negotiated Approach is an approach that enables local communities to defend their rights and to propose strategies that fight poverty and ensure a viable ecosystem in the long run. The succes of the approach was already proven in India, yet little is known about Africa. But the report the volunteers are writing can bring about a change.

The Negotiated Approach in Africa

Local communities were almost never involved in the planning and decision-making regarding natural resources such as water. The Negotiated Approach is an instrument to bring a change in the culture of decision-making. This approach has grown organically from similar succesful examples  led by civil society organisations in different parts of the world. It is a flexible approach that can not only by used for IWRM, but also for subjects such as climate change. Both ENDS supports organisations in the deployment of the Negotiated Approach and facilitates knowledge exchange. This is also how the approach became known in Africa. To investigage the effects of the Negotiated Approach in Africa six students and recent graduates went to Ghana, Uganda and Kenia.


The first bottum-up board

Akeo Veerman and Merel-Anne Kijk in de Vegte were in the Volta Region in Ghana. Akeo, a student of Cultural Anthropology, tells about their work: “We did a research on how local communities can be involved in planning and decision-making from both sides. For example we asked local farmers if they were able to contribute to the NGO projects in the region and whether they felt like they were heard by the local water management. We also asked the regional political stakeholders to what extent they tried to involve local people in the decision-making processes of new projects. We interviewed board members of the Day river Basin Board: the first local and bottom-up board.” Merel, who studies Future Planet Studies, adds: “While most boards are exclusively made up of representatives of central government institutions, the Day river Basin Board consists of representatives of local government institutions, representatives of two farmers’ organisations, a chief, a queen mother (a ‘female chief’) and a local NGO.”


Lack of money, not of motivation

Although the board has a professional structure, there have not yet been any decentralised approaches or negotiations. “The main problem is that there is not enough money,” explains Akeo. “There is a very strong motivation among the different boards, but the budgets are still controlled centrally and so are the policies. WRC, the initiator of the board, still does not have enough capacity and manpower to manage all the boards personally, although they keep trying. A solution would be to have a local representative.”


Report for African ministers

In the coming weeks Akeo and Merel will work on a written report of their findings. The report will be presented to the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) at the Water Peace Dialogues in The Hague in September. Also the results of the researches in Uganda and Kenia will be included in this report.  “We primarily want to show why the bottom-up Negiotiated Approach is so important, because then the ministers might make the needed investments!”

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