Challenges of accessing water for agricultural use in the Breede-Gouritz Catchment management agency, South Africa

Awelani Sadiki
Faculty of Applied Sciences, Department of Environmental and Occupational Studies, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa; awelani.sadiki1@gmail.com

Bongani Ncube
Centre for Water and Sanitation Research, Department of Civil Engineering and Surveying, Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa; ncubeb@cput.ac.za

ABSTRACT: Agricultural water is not equitably shared in South Africa. A substantial proportion of water is in the hands of large commercial farmers and the water access of smallholder farmers is limited. Policies and strategies developed since 1994 to ensure equal access to productive water have had little impact. This paper presents an analysis of the challenges of accessing water through the water user licence process in the Breede-Gouritz Catchment Management Agency (BGCMA) of South Africa. A review of the national Water Allocation Reform (WAR) programme and the related BGCMA strategies was carried out. Interviews were conducted with smallholder farmers and with key officials responsible for water allocation processes in the BGCMA and other water-related institutions; the Framework of Water Governance by Franks and Cleaver (2007) was used to analyse the processes. Results revealed that existing lawful water use continues to privilege previously advantaged commercial farmers and that smallholder farmers’ access to productive water is hampered by lack of human and financial capacity within the institutions that support them, and by limited coordination among these institutions. A water allocation unit at the BGCMA that specifically deals with water licencing is necessary to speed up the process and to enable local people to inclusively participate in water resource management.

KEYWORDS: Water Allocation Reform, water user licence, smallholder farmers, access, South Africa, water governance