The Mvutjini earth dam is located at KaLanga area within the Makhondvolwane community in the central Lowveld of Swaziland. The dam is an only source of water for four communities namely, KaLanga, Matsetsa, Mpolonjeni and Mangolweni in the Lubombo Region (administrative).
The KaLanga area is characterized by a rural, subsistence farming and small scale (traditional) livestock rearing community. The Makhondvolwane (Mvutjini) dam was constructed in 1973 by the Swaziland Government’s Ministry of Agriculture with the intention to supply water to a 100ha farm and for livestock purposes. Efforts were made to provide safe water through a water scheme by Rural Water Resources Branch of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy.
Over the time, unclear ownership and no formal mechanism to manage the water source caused unfavorable conditions for the local community. There was no attempt to address serious problems that included human and livestock pollution of the dam, deteriorating health situation and overexploitation of the water source.
Under the PAWD program, the Swaziland Country Water Partnership embarked on an IWRM demonstration project to “test” the applicability of IWRM principles on the ground.
The project aimed to revitalize the dam and set up management rules. Involvement of stakeholders from governmental bodies, NGOs and local dwellers was ensured through community meetings.
A biophysical and socio-economic study was conducted to assess current status in water resources use. Key conflicts were identified and conflict resolution techniques were applied. Both, technical and institutional measures were implemented to achieve major goals set with the community.
As a result of this demonstration project the earth dam was fenced and trees cleared within the buffer zone, animal drinking troughs built, boreholes were installed after additional resources were sourced, an organized gardening scheme was created and sanitary facilities were built in homesteads. Important element of the project included the training and education of the local community.
Collaboration and partnering between institutions involved in water resources management is vital and tends to be efficient as these tend to share different skills, experiences and knowledge as much as resources. This was observed when various implementing partners comprising of SZWP, Government and NGOs worked in partnership forging alliances for the success of the project.
Whilst recognizing the role played by the different implementing institutions and key players, the early inclusion of local area traditional authorities cannot be overlooked as they ensure project acceptance, ownership. This indicates that local knowledge is also important to build upon including the use of existing institutions. Also, community conflicts can be handled well when the local authority is involved from the beginning.
“Quick wins” help in creating commitment and ownership, but the participatory planning process cannot be done without facing challenges. It is useful to start implementing IWRM at small scale because outputs are easy to realize and project is easy to manage since it becomes easy to build upon lessons learnt.
Financial resources mobilisation is still an issue that requires attention since it becomes an impediment to development initiatives as observed in the KaLanga IWRM project in the effort to construct a cross over bridge. The bridge initiative is still pending funding for design and construction.
Photo credit: René C. Nielsen