International aid organisations and development agencies should avoid imposing their own water management solutions on communities with their own successful strategies, says a new ICE report published last week.
Major non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should build on practices which are often thousands of years old, when when planning water resources in developing countries, the Managing Water Locally report says.
The report is published by the ICE and charities Oxfam and WaterAid. It points to communities in Peru and
the Sahelian zone of Africa which successfully use local rules and traditions for water management.
The report acknowledges the ultimate responsibility of national governments to safeguard water supply and says perceptions that poor households in developing countries may not have the capacity or time to participate in water management are not always true.
“It is crucial to understand that by ignoring traditional systems and techniques, regions can become even more vulnerable,” said WaterAid programme manager Vincent Casey.
“Many communities are already active in managing their water resources. These practices now need to be strengthened.”
The report also pointed out that engaging local people in managing their own resources is much cheaper than hiring foreign experts to develop and implement schemes.
Past ICE President Paul Jowitt said: “the onus is on international organisations, engineers and governments to better respect community practices.”
The report stresses that NGOs must play their part by acting as a bridge between communities and local government. Oxfam water policy adviser Leslie Morris-Iveson said, “in rural Africa, community management is a standard strategy, but these mechanisms don’t often acknowledge the need for external support.
“By [government] involving water users in the decision making process, water policy can be more accurately aligned to realities.”