A public servant of Water Resource Planning and Regulation at the Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda, shares his views on the Rwizi River catchment rehabilitation by IWASP as a model initiative due to its focus on public-private partnerships bringing together various stakeholders. He discussed the regulatory context as well as lessons learnt.
Public sector partners involved in this project are the Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) and the National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC). The private sector partners include The Coca Cola Africa Foundation (TCCAF), Century Bottling Company (CBC) and Coca-Cola East and West African Business Unit.
- What is so unique about the Rwizi Catchment management initiative under the IWasP initiative?
"Rwizi is currently the first place where the private sector closely engages on catchment activities and water resources management. They too will benefit at the end of the day when water resources improve and remain sustainable. The initiative has also leveraged some financial resources from the private sector.
Second, the alternative livelihood fund where communities are able to borrow at low interest rates, as they work to preserve and protect that catchment, makes the communities feel that they are cared about. It demonstrates that the initiative understands that they are probably farming in the wetland/riverbank because they are experiencing financial challenges."
- What is the regulatory framework?
"The Government used to do the planning and implementing of such projects, however this was not yielding the desired results. Around 2006, the approach to water resource management changed to catchment based integrated water resource management that is stakeholder driven. The result of water reform studies also recommended that we needed to be near where the water challenges occurred and that stakeholders need to be actively involved in water management. In our new policy approach, we are saying stakeholders need to be involved in identifying water issues facing them as well as possible solutions.
The country was divided into four water management zones under the water management reforms, where Rwizi catchment was made part of the Lake Victoria water management zone. In each zone, there are several catchments and each catchment has a stakeholder forum. Rwizi catchment for example has a stakeholder forum that meets every year. The forum elects a committee of stakeholders who live around the area. So, we cannot have somebody from Kampala coming to be a stakeholder in Rwizi. The catchment is also supported by a technical committee and ideally each should have a secretariat."
- What challenges have been encountered so far?
"The traditional focus of people who want to see tangible results immediately. Secondly, where politicians are involved and we have five-year political cycles (elections), you find that politicians are sometimes reluctant to participate when the results will be realized beyond the five-year period and cannot be used to bring them back to power. Skepticism is another thing we experience, where people say “you are not the first person to come with such a project”. Sustaining the meetings and ensuring that people keep coming for the meetings is also a challenge. Finally, keeping all these people working together… the Government is sometimes suspicious of civil society, while the private sector may be suspicious of the Government etc."
- What are some of the lessons learnt and successes achieved?
"That private sector can be involved by mobilizing them through issues that affect them. They can be approached from the perspective of water risks by letting them know that if they are not there, their issues will not be addressed. Secondly, projects, whether by donors or any other group, need to be created to fit within the existing government frame-work. Third, you can really not get commitment from people without incentives. Lastly, people must be involved in and be convinced of what is going on. This is why you need to regularly meet with the people and interface with them to give them feedback and continue to get their buy-in. Continuous awareness raising is also important, as we might appreciate the information we have but the people may not know about it. That is why we are embarking on documentation and information sharing.
In terms of successes, seeing passionate stakeholders who are engaged is encouraging. There was a wetland that, by March 2014, was very degraded and in a few months things have improved — the place has been restored. The conservation fund is another key success, as most community members don’t have access to credit. Getting the Government, private sector and CSOs to meet and sit together and discuss and do something together — we consider this a success."