Water governance and patterns of water use to support livelihoods in the Lower Kafue River Basin, Zambia

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Simfukwe, Thomas
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Water is the primary source of life and livelihoods. The survival of both rural and urban communities depends on water use for agriculture, fishing, livestock, domestic consumption and energy production. To enhance accessibility to the life supporting commodity for all, the water governance system in Zambia has undergone several reforms. The reforms were meant to foster decentralization by devolution of powers to grassroots water institutions and increase participation of rural households in water resource use decision-making process. The main objectives of this study were to determine the level of awareness and participation of rural households in water governance; to document the rural households‘ pattern of consumptive and productive use of water for supporting livelihoods; to document some of the constraints and conflicts related to water use in the lower Kafue River Basin. A review of policy documents and other literature; key informant interviews and a household survey were conducted to collect and analyze data for the study. The study results show that smallholder farmers are key actors in rural water use, particularly water use for agriculture, domestic consumption and fishing. They can significantly influence water use decisions at grass root level. However, the majority of rural households (90%) were not aware of the new water institutions introduced by the Water Management Act of 2011 and the knowledge of their functions was scanty. Moreover, there was limited community participation in water governance. About 97% of the respondents expressed ignorance about community participation in water use decision-making processes at grassroots level The study results further show that, despite the intrinsic value of water, its use by rural households is mired in several constraints. About half of the respondents have access to water resources, but clean and safe water is accessible to only about 19 percent. Irrigated agriculture accounts for 35 percent of respondents using water mainly for subsistence crops such as vegetables and tomato. On the other hand, water use for fishing is limited to natural water bodies which suffer constraints of overfishing owing to use of illegal fishing methods and non-compliance to fishing regulations. The policy implications of these findings are that formulation of new water policy and regulatory frameworks in Zambia is necessary, but the implementation of such policies at end-user level is the most critical in improving accessibility to water resources and improving the livelihoods of rural households. It is of utmost importance that government should make efforts to ensure increased awareness about water sector policy reforms and enhance community participation in water governance institutions in order to effectively implement decentralization policies in the water sector.
Water-Use , Water Supply-Zambia