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Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM): Capacity Development:

Organisations Supporting Capacity Development in IWRM


There are a number of international, regional and national institutions focused on promoting and implementing capacity development initiatives related to Integrated Water Resources Management across the SADC region.

Listed below is a partial summary of the key organisations

Global Water Partnership Southern Africa

The Global Water Partnership (GWP) established South Africa’s action programmes in Pretoria in 2002 to promote integrated approaches to water resources management to serve the poor. The goal is to inform policy makers of the water-related needs of the poor, and successful approaches of using water as a tool to combat poverty. The partnership helps to support the government in drafting statements on water and poverty.

The GWP's regional program in southern Africa is designed to support poverty reduction efforts through networking, collaboration and coordinated development and sustainable management of the water resources in the region (GWP 2009b). Capacity building initiatives are coordinated through WaterNet, while information sharing initiatives are facilitated through the Southern Africa Water Information Network (SAWINET).

The partner countries in GWP southern Africa are: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Country Water Partnerships in GWP southern Africa are: Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe (GWP 2009b).



WaterNet is a successful example of a regional capacity building network, with 56 education and knowledge institutes in southern and eastern Africa offering joint education, training and research in Integrated Water Resources Management. UNESCO-IHE is one of the founding members of WaterNet and provides academic backstopping and advice to the network.

Since 2003, WaterNet has offered a masters degree programme in Integrated Water Resources Management. Over 26 course modules have been developed for the programme, with six specialisations offered:

  • Water Resources Management, at the University of Zimbabwe
  • Water and Environment, at the University of Malawi
  • Hydrology, at the University of Dar es Salaam
  • Water for People, at the Polytechnic of Namibia
  • Water and Society, at the University of Western Cape
  • Water and Land, at the University of Botswana

Each year, several short-courses are also offered to water sector specialists.

The comparative strengths of the members allows for a high-quality, comprehensive Masters programme and joint research activities. Pooling expertise is seen as the most efficient method for providing education and research that is truly inter-disciplinary; encompassing all of the important aspects of Integrated Water Resources Management. The collaboration will help to enhance the capacity to deal with cross-border issues within the region. As of 2007, 173 students have graduated.

Source: UNESCO 2009



Cap-Net is an international network for capacity development in IWRM. This network leverages international, regional and national institutions and networks committed to capacity development in the water sector through support for IWRM and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's).

Cap-Net aims to tackle the lack of capacity in the water sector through three key lessons: strengthening local ownership, developing partnerships to overcome capacity constraints and assisting capacity development service providers to respond to demands.

In the face of the challenges posed by transformation, it is often possible for international co-operating partners to bypass or undermine local capacity as efforts move forward. Cap-Net propose that the development local knowledge and capacity should be the primary focus of co-operation, starting with ownership for any programme or work.

The Cap-Net approach also promotes the development of partnerships to create multi-disciplinary teams and utilising new technologies to create teams whose critical mass can overcome a lack of capacity.

Finally, Cap-Net supports the development of a capacity development environment that takes into consideration the capacity development needs of recipients above everything else. Cap-Net provides an impressive array of training and capacity development materials on its website, which in most cases are also available on CD-ROM and in printed form.



FETWater (the Framework Programme for Research, Education and Training in Water), is designed to promote effective cooperation in research, education, training and capacity development initiatives to achieve integrated water resource management in South Africa. FETWater supports training networks created to build capacity in integrated water resource management. FETWater provides institutional support and seed funding to encourage the creation of training networks as a method for effective co-operation between universities, research institutions, and the public and private sectors in South Africa.

The main funders of the FETWater Programme are the Flemish Government, UNESCO, and the South African Government (Department of Water Affairs - DWA).

Under Phase I (2002–2005), FETWater achieved the following (UNESCO 2009):

  • Training to strengthen international co-operation, develop effective co-operative approaches to building human resource capacity for IWRM, and learn from the European experiences in training and capacity development via networks
  • In the reporting period, three networks that reflect the general principles and priorities of FETWater were identified, established and received financial support
  • Two capacity audits were conducted to support and complement existing national initiatives, programmes and activities
  • An innovative groundwater manual and accompanying software was developed to address identified capacity-building and training needs in the sector
  • A total of 391 professionals and Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) South Africa staff were trained, including two scientists from Namibia, along with 23 students throughout the nine provinces in South Africa. The latter training contributed to transformation in the water sector by improving the capacity of previously disadvantaged groups and individuals
  • Achieved effective cooperation through active participation of partners from 10 Universities, various professional service providers, the Water Research Commission as well as the Department of Water Affairs
  • A group of students from Namibia and South Africa completed a two-week training course focusing on the Orange-Senqu river basin, aimed at educating students on social, economic and environmental aspects related to the management of water resources-an initiative between the FETwater programme and the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia


Water Research Commission (WRC)

The Water Research Commission (WRC) of South Africa is a statutory body funded by a levy on water sales. It was founded in 1971, after a period of severe water shortage, to tackle the issues of knowledge generation and purposeful promotion of the country’s water research. It coordinates water-related research and development in South Africa, encourages the development of water-related knowledge, and facilitates its dissemination and application through its funding and networking activities. The WRC maintains close ties with the DWA South Africa. Four water-centred strategic areas for research and development have been defined, as well as cross-cutting key strategic areas. The WRC is a very important actor in water-centred research and developmenting the region.


Other Institutions

South African universities generate a large amount of relevant research. The University of Pretoria’s Centre for International Political Studies (CIPS), the University of Kwazulu-Natal, the University of Cape Town, and the Institute for Water Research at Rhodes University, are particularly important. Researchers at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have produced a significant amount of work in this field.

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) has a regional office in South Africa. It is a non-profit scientific research organisation that focuses on the sustainable use of water and land resources in agriculture, and on the water needs of developing countries. Of their five research areas, the two most relevant within the basin are the Integrated Water Resource Management for Agriculture and Water Resource Institutions and Policies. IWMI has produced several reports related to the region’s water management.

Water Research Fund for Southern Africa (WARFSA) was established in 1997 as a regional network for education, training and research in the SADC region to ensure the availability of water for social and economic development. Its specific objectives are:

  • To promote and facilitate the implementation of multidisciplinary research projects in integrated water resources management in the region
  • To promote the utilisation of research results for decision-making aimed at ensuring sustainable development of water resources in the region
  • To encourage research that leads to better use of precipitation to increase land productivity or availability of water for domestic use

WARFSA has engaged in capacity-building efforts on several fronts: offering training courses in proposal development, facilitating on-the-job training of graduate students (within WARFSA projects), providing peer review to applicants through the referee system, holding annual symposia (with WaterNet) bringing grantees together, and organising monitoring visits to "problem projects".




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