Traditional and Western knowledge integration in water governance and its implications for rural livelihoods in Esigodini, Zimbabwe.
Thesis DisciplineWater Resource Management
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Water Resource Management
Globally, the quality and quantity of water resources continue to decline, and there has been a realisation that water governance systems based solely on Western science, are not providing adequate solutions to the world’s water challenges. This has seen an increased interest in the integration of traditional and Western-based knowledge systems for efficient water management from the 1980s. Proponents of the notion, however, argue that although Western science and traditional knowledge are different, they can complement each other and improve the manner in which the world’s water resources are managed. In Zimbabwe, 70% of the population resides in rural areas, and 50% of the total population lives on communal lands, and utilises traditional knowledge on a daily basis to manage water. A plural legal system exists in the country, however, water statutory instruments do not recognise Indigenous knowledge systems. There are no provisions in water legislation and policy for improved access to water for the expansion of subsistence agriculture, which is mainly practised on communal lands.
This qualitative study draws on fieldwork in Esigodini, Zimbabwe, to explore the different traditional water management practices of the Ndebele group. It identifies the opportunities and challenges of establishing a system that integrates traditional and Western-based water management, and considers how such a system can impact rural livelihoods. The research finds that small-scale agriculture is the main livelihood practised in Esigodini Village, and the villagers have, over time, developed traditional water management systems to support this livelihood. The local knowledge systems have, however, evolved over the years to address current water challenges including climate variability, and increased water demand. The study concludes that traditional water management systems practised in Esigodini, encourage the sustainable use of water. A water governance system that integrates traditional and Western-based knowledge can support improved and diversified rural livelihoods and reduce donor dependency in the village. Challenges such as local communities losing faith in government-initiated collaborative processes, have impelled the study to recommend that a third space be established. This space will allow for cross learning and formulation of information that contributes to decision making, legislation, and policy. A monitoring framework that is based on traditional and Western ways of knowing will need to be developed to monitor the outcomes of the implementation of the integrated system. All stakeholders need to participate with respect for each way of knowing and in good faith, in order for the collaborative process to have positive outcomes for rural livelihoods in Esigodini Village.