Flows and practices


This research seeks to link ideas of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) as constructed at the European and global levels to their translation into narratives and practices in eastern and southern Africa (Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe).

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) has emerged as a key approach in the water sector in the past decade. However, it has not produced the anticipated socio-economic, political and ecological outcomes due to the uncertainty and complexity of river basins and the plural, overlapping and competing formal and informal legal and customary systems in the African context.

The project studied various levels of interaction: key policy events and forums at the international and regional level, in-depth comparative case study of national water reform processes and detailed fieldwork in major river basins in all four countries focusing on 'hotspots'.

Project leader

Professor Lyla Mehta (Institute of Development Studies, UK and NMBU)

Partners and participants

  • Professor William Derman (NMBU)
  • Post Doc Synne Movik (formerly NMBU)
  • Dr. Alan Nicol (Institute of Development Studies)
  • Dr. Jeremy Allouche (Institute of Development Studies)
  • Dr. ir. Jan Alexander Bolding (Wageningen University)
  • Dr. Barbara van Koppen (International Water Management Institute)
  • Dr. Emmanuel Manzungu (University of Zimbabwe)
  • Professor Andrew K.P.R. Tarimo (Sokoine University of Agriculture)


Specific objectives are to examine:

  1. How intersections between experts, science and politics provided the impetus for IWRM creation and dissemination

  2. How global and European policy ideas on water management influenced the contents and policy articulation of water reform and policy processes in Africa

  3. How these were accepted, modified, translated and implemented in African contexts

  4. How IWRM interacts with local water practices and institutional arrangements in Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe


  1. Inception phase/conceptual framework (January – December 2012): Research plan and methodological/conceptual framework; setting up research sites; recruitment of local research staff; reviewing literature and preparing policy discussion papers; developing webpage, mailing list and network contacts. 

  2. The Flow of IWRM, formulation of IWRM in donor programmes and policies and the spread to Africa (June 2012 – June 2013): Activities: Stakeholder meeting; interacting with users; attending key meetings in Europe; interviews; documentary analysis.

  3. Research on the ground in southern and eastern Africa on water reforms, water practices and social, cultural, institutional and political relations (June 2012 – June 2014 ): Fieldwork; study of policy processes; cross- country comparisons and analysis.

  4. Synthesis, analysis, writing up and final dissemination (June – December 2014): Crosscompariss on data analysis, and publications. National seminars for researchers, local users, water professionals and international policy makers; Final conference for which additional funding may have to be sought.

Project sites

  • Mozambique
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Zimbabwe


Learning from Southern Africa on Fair and Effective Integrated Water Resources Management. IDS Policy Briefing 77 (2014) Corbett, H., Mehta, L., with van Koppen, B., Movik, S. and Derman, B.

Published 9. June 2015 - 12:28 - Updated 1. December 2016 - 11:46