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Facilitating public participation in water resources management: reflections from Tanzania

Jane Eleuter Kabogo, Ministry of Water and Irrigation, United Republic of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Elizabeth P Anderson, Department of Earth and Environment, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA
Pendo Hyera, Wami/Ruvu Basin Water Board, Ministry of Water and Irrigation, United Republic of Tanzania, Morogoro, Tanzania
Godfred Kajanja, Lake Victoria Basin Water Board, Ministry of Water and Irrigation, United Republic of Tanzania, Mwanza, Tanzania


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Access to adequate quantity and quality of fresh water is critical to the well-being of Tanzania’s human population, currently approaching 50 million. In the early 2000s, Tanzania revamped its legal and institutional frameworks related to freshwater resources management with the passage of the National Water Policy (NAWAPO) and the Water Resources Management (WRM) Act. Three major components of these frameworks are: the use of natural hydrological boundaries as units for management; the designation of an order for decision making on water allocation that prioritizes basic human and ecosystem water needs; and the encouragement of community participation in freshwater resources management. Institutionally, WRM now follows a nested approach, with the Tanzanian Ministry of Water operating at a national scale, nine basin water offices responsible for water allocation at a river basin scale, and formally recognized water users’ associations as mechanisms for public participation at the catchment scale. To date, 93 water users’ associations have been formed. Although some are active and appear effective, others are almost dormant, and not achieving their full potential as partners in WRM. In this paper, we provide context for the sweeping changes in WRM in Tanzania and review the lessons from more than a decade of implementation of the NAWAPO. We focus in particular on the role of the water users’ associations, and use case studies of three basins—the Pangani, Wami/Ruvu, and Lake Victoria—to examine their strengths and challenges. Tanzania’s experience offers lessons for other countries considering revision to legal and institutional frameworks around fresh water.

Key words

East Africa; freshwater; people; river; water users’ associations

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087