Surges and ebbs: National politics and international influence in the formulation and implementation of IWRM in Zimbabwe

Emmanuel Manzungu
University of Zimbabwe, Department of Soil Science and Agricultural Engineering, Harare, Zimbabwe; emmanuelmanzungu@gmail.com

Bill Derman
Norwegian University of the Life Sciences, Department of International Environment and Development Studies, Aas, Norway; bill.derman@nmbu.no

ABSTRACT: In the 1990s, the Government of Zimbabwe undertook water reforms to redress racially defined inequitable access to agricultural water. This paper analyses how a water reform process, seemingly informed by a clear political economy objective, was hijacked by efforts directed at implementing Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). It uses the notion of policy articulation to analyse why and how IWRM 'travelled' to and in Zimbabwe and with what outcomes. The paper shows that attempts at introducing and implementing IWRM in Zimbabwe have had a chequered history. The efforts of Zimbabwe in pioneering implementation of IWRM in southern Africa, have subsequently waned, and prospects for resurrecting IWRM in its original form are low. Introduced in the 1990s when Western donors jumped on the bandwagon of the liberal economic agenda inspired by the IMF/World Bank, it declined between 2000 and 2009 due to a combination of poor economic performance, national-level politics and international isolation. In 2011 IWRM was reintroduced as the country re-engaged with the international community. The re-emergence of IWRM, however, seems to be largely rhetorical as the focus is now on fixing a crisis-ridden water sector, with a new political dispensation adding another layer of complexity. The paper concludes that the development of IWRM in Zimbabwe mirrors broader national-level socio-political processes and their complex relationship with the international community.

KEYWORDS: Water reform, IWRM, policy (dis)articulation, Zimbabwe