IWRM for the Zambezi Valley

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximise economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems and the environment.

1. International Context

The Zambezi River Basin is home to about 40 million people who rely on the river for drinking water, fisheries, irrigation, hydropower production, mining and industry, tourism, ecosystem maintenance, and other uses. Thus, protecting and managing the Zambezi is extremely important to the people living in the region. Transboundary management of shared water resources has been a continuing challenge for all of Southern Africa, particularly in the Zambezi River Basin. The Zambezi Valley is the largest river basin in Southern Africa, covering some 1.37 million km2 across eight countries, Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Water management in the basin is especially difficult because of multiple and competing interests; inadequate basin-level institutional structures; institutional, legal, economic, and human resource constraints; and poor data collection, poor communication, and inadequate training.

2. Mozambican context

The Zambezi Valley in Mozambique has a total area of about 228,000 km2 and five million inhabitants, about 43% of the country’s population. The area also comprises four provinces – Tete, Manica, Sofala and Zambézia – and is known for its extremely rich natural resources, and suitability for agriculture. The Zambezi Basin has a per capita availability of surface water resources of about 5,550 m3/year, for the runoff generated within the country; and 12,000 m3/year including cross borders flows. In the country this water is mostly utilized for agriculture, navigation, hydropower generation.

In fact, in the Zambezi Valley, the vast majority of the smallholder farmers depend on their agricultural production and fishing to survive, but are confronted with several constraints, such as: changes in communities settlement patterns; inability of communities to manage flood risk and management of flow in dry periods; climate change; limited agricultural production; lack of storage infrastructures; and lack of technical competencies to build up and develop solutions related to IWRM.

This flow regime in Lower Zambezi has also caused major changes in settlement patterns of communities who live along the river. The lowest flow in the summer and the absence of flood has motivated permanent communities to settle close to the banks and floodplains that were previously only seasonally occupied. The settlements in these areas were one of the main reasons why the 2000-2001 floods were so severe, with more than 700 people killed in a year and more than 500,000 homeless.

Therefore, the major challenges that the reagion is facing can thus be summarized as follows:

1. An IWRM approach is lacking, focusing on the necessary integration of water management across different sectors, policies and institutions.
2. Water security is an important component of IWRM and of project ZAMADZI and we follow the UN’s definition of water security:

“The capacity of a population to safeguard sustainable access to adequate quantities of acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability.”

3. Crops and livestock need water to grow. In fact, about 70% of the total water consumed in Mozambique is used in agriculture, making measures to improve the efficiency of water use crucial for economic growth, sustainability and poverty reduction of the utmost importance.
4. Practical (on the job) knowledge is lacking and what exists is not yet consolidated in a more theoretical framework of integrated knowledge.
5. There is also insufficient knowledge regarding hydrology, hydrometric, flood forecasting, groundwater management, monitoring and analysis; GIS, data validation and reporting and databases management; and lack of modern technologies and water infrastructure, like dykes and small reservoirs.

3. Our approach to capacity building

In order to improve the quality of IWRM-related education in the Zambezi Valley and the capacity of local stakeholders, our dedicated team, including both the Mozambican requesting organizations and the  the Dutch consortium, is working on a capacity building programme that includes:

  • Short courses both for staff and students of the requesting organizations and staff from relevant stakeholders,
  • Action research projects that will link ROs and relevant local stakeholders,
  • MSc education for staff of the ROs, and
  • PhD projects in cooperation with regional Universities with links to the WaterNet network.

More information about these actions will be shared in our blog.