Dissonance in customary and statutory water management institutions in the Okavango Delta, Botswana
PublisherUniversity of Botswana, www.ub.bw
Rights holderThe author
MetadataShow full item record
Failure to integrate customary institutions in water management will negatively affect sustainable water resources management. The need for active involvement and meaningful participation of all stakeholders at all levels of decision making is crucial in water governance. Thus, there is a need for the integration of customary and statutory institutions in the governance of water resources to enable the meaningful participation of local communities. Currently, the governance structure in African countries favours statutory institutions at the expense of customary institutions. Literature shows that the potential role of customary institutions in the governance of water is crucial albeit modern water legal systems in Africa is state-centric. Consequently, the paradigm of the modern water legal systems runs parallel to that of customary institutions. This study was informed by the institutional bricolage and Mass-Elite theories and positioned in the cultural lag and legal pluralism conceptual frameworks. Using a qualitative research design in a case study approach, the study examined factors engendering dissonance existing between customary and statutory institutions in the governance of water in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Purposive sampling technique was used to select 44 key informants (comprising village chiefs, deputy chief, chairpersons of Village Development Committees and elderly residents, 16 Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and 1 Water Utilities Corporation officials. These were chosen based on their knowledge of institutions and positions in society. Data were gathered through household interview schedules, focus group discussions and key informant interviews in the three villages within the Okavango Delta. Data were also gathered from government documents like Water Act (1968), Water Policy (2012) and Water Bill (2005). Results showed that the dissonance between customary and statutory institutions in the governance of water was shaped by the perceptions of respondents. For instance, while devotees of statutory institutions perceived water as an economic good that warrants competitive market-based pricing to recoup costs incurred in the processing and provision of water infrastructure, customary institutions supporters argued that water is a social good as it is a God-given commodity which is non-substitutable and is indeed a basic right rather than a commodity for sale. Findings indicated that while 85% of the residents obtained water from standpipes, 93.8% of them travelled less than 1 kilometre to make a complete journey to and from water sources. A Kruskal Wallis test revealed a statistically significant difference (X = 5.2; p = 0.014) in the mean ranks of water expenditure across income groups. Demographic, cultural and socio-economic variables were crucial in the governance of water. Findings also revealed a deep animistic belief in water and that statutory institutions approach to solving water problems was not in tandem with the expectations of the local people in the Okavango Delta. Lastly, the results indicated that water sector reforms were in progress in Botswana. In line with the findings, policymakers need to take cognisance of the spiritual dimension of water management within the context of the customary institutions to enhance sustainable water management, particularly in grassroots communities. Thus, there is a need to repeal the current water legislation and ensure that water for domestic purposes is subsidised by both affluent consumers and the government. There is also a need for the harmonisation of the two genres of water institutions by ensuring that water-related conflicts in rural areas are resolved within the customary institution's codes of conduct with only complex cases referred to the statutory tribunal.
- Research articles (ORI)