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

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

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.

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