Introduction to the special Issue: Flows and practices: the politics of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in Southern Africa

Introduction to the special Issue: Flows and practices: the politics of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in Southern Africa

For the past two decades, IWRM has been actively promoted by water experts as well as multilateral and bilateral donors  who have considered it to be a crucial way to address global  water management problems. IWRM  has  been  incorporated  into  water  laws,  reforms  and  policies  of  southern  African  nations.  This  article introduces the special issue 'Flows and Practices: The Politics of IWRM in southern Africa'. It provides a conceptual framework  to  study:  the  flow  of  IWRM  as  an  idea;  its  translation  and  articulation  into  new  policies,  institutions andallocation  mechanisms,  and  the  resulting  practices  and  effects  across  multiple  scales – global,  regional, national and local. The empirical findings of the complexities of articulation and implementation of IWRM in South Africa,  Zimbabwe,  Mozambique,  Tanzania  and  Uganda  form  the  core  of  this  special  issue.  We  demonstrate  how Africa  has  been  a  laboratory  for  IWRM  experiments,  while  donors  as  well  as  a  new  cadre  of  water  professionals and  students  have  made  IWRM  their  mission.  The  case  studies  reveal  that  IWRM  may  have  resulted  in  an unwarranted policy focus on managing water instead of enlarging poor women’s and men’s access to water. The newly  created  institutional  arrangements tended  to centralise  the  power  and  control  of  the  State  and  powerful users over water and failed to address historically rooted inequalities.

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