With the introduction of IWRM, South Africa has shifted the design and implementation of water management and allocation policies from the state to local institutions. This has created a demand for innovative methods for local stakeholders’ participation in water management. Action was taken to introduce a participatory process called Companion Modelling that is a scientific posture based on the use of simulation models and role playing games. Consequently, this case study illustrates new methods and tools that facilitate dialogue and improve decision-making skills of local stakeholders.
Most Southern African countries have enacted or amended their water laws and policies during the last 15 years or so, and restructured their institutional and governance frameworks accordingly. Integrated Water Resource Management inspired new Southern African water policies.
Following the subsidiary principle, the design and implementation of water management and allocation policies are transferred from the state to local institutions, which often have a better knowledge of the catchment functioning and where representatives of local water stakeholders are allowed to negotiate and jointly decide water management strategies and measures.
In order to address the need for innovative methods for local stakeholders’ participation in water management, within a project supported by the Water Research Commission of South Africa, a participatory process called Companion Modelling (ComMod) was implemented in the Kat River valley (Eastern Cape Province), where the local Water User Association was busy drafting its catchment plan.
ComMod is a scientific posture based on the use of simulation models and role playing games (RPG) to assist participatory management of natural resources. ComMod consists of 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 then adopted by stakeholders for local negotiation. In addition to ComMod, other models were applied (KatAware model, Wat-A-Game).
A number of shortcomings were identified by an ex-post external evaluation of the exercise. The ComMod process was considered too long by most of the local stakeholders. KatAware was perceived as a prescriptive and normative tool rather than an interface to facilitate discussions. Also, Wat-a-Game is still at a prototype stage, was successfully tested in real negotiation contexts and in educational arenas.
This case study shows new methods and tools that facilitate dialogue and improve decision-making skills of local stakeholders for effective, equitable and sustainable water management.
Applied research might support decentralization efforts in Southern Africa. This research is designed and implemented in very close collaboration with all parties involved in water policy decentralization.