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Regional integration: a solution for a sustainable management of water resources?

What does it mean to work on regional integration? We followed Dr. Chris Nshimbi on his latest field trip to get a better understanding of what ‘hands-on’ research mean.

Nshimbi just got back from attending a SADC-WaterNet Conference “Integrated water resource management (IWRM) for harnessing socioeconomic development in Eastern and Southern Africa” in Lilongwe, Malawi (29-31 October, 2014). In Lilongwe he presented his paper: “Trans-boundary water resources: prospects for greater regional cooperation and integration in southern Africa”, which investigates the sustainable use of water resources in the Zambezi River Basin with a view to striking a balance in the food-water-energy nexus and enhancing regional integration.

From the conference he moved on to conduct fieldwork at the Mozambique-Zambia-Zimbabwe border, which is a confluence between the Zambezi and Luangwa Rivers (31 October – 4 November 2014).  Nshimbi work focuses in informal cross-border trade, therefore he conducted research interviews with informal cross-border traders, who largely rely on the water resources of the Zambezi for some of the goods (fish) they trade as well as for transportation.  He will use the data from these interviews to complement the policy review and analysis contained in the paper he presented in Lilongwe.

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[As it often happens, researchers can benefit from the help of people working on the ground. Nshimbi on his trip was assisted for the duration of his research by Mr. Joseph Kakoma, who took the photos  that you see above and facilitated the contacts with the traders].

Here is the abstract of the presentation that Nshimbi gave in Lilongwe:

Trans-boundary water resources: prospects for greater regional cooperation and integration in southern Africa

Regional integration is not new to southern Africa. The process has gone through the pre- and colonial era, the struggle for political independence, decolonization, non-alignment during the Cold War, and liberalisation and economic reform in present times. Regionalism has thus evolved through periodic responses to influences inside and outside the sub-continent. This paper attempts to sequence the path dependent evolution of regional integration in southern Africa with the help of historical institutionalism and highlights the dynamics at work at two levels in the evolutionary process. First, at state level are states and respective rulers seeking to consolidate state rule and assert their nations’ independence. Second, and owing to the sub-continents’ geography, a geographical logic at the grassroots suggests that non-state actors here should collaborate with each other. Presently, southern Africa has reached a critical juncture in the form of an energy deficit that, compounded by climate change, threatens future livelihoods if unchecked. The threat, however, presents a sequential opportunity to foster regional cooperation and integration. Therefore, it is ultimately shown using trans-boundary water resources that deliberate and calculated use of natural spillovers can foster integration through a coordinated approach to sustainable exploitation of the resources. Southern African countries should establish consensus and exchanges especially on planned development projects concerning exploitation of trans-border water resources. Further, authorities should harmonise, coordinate trans-boundary water resources and related policies, and consider grassroots non-state actors. The region should devise mechanisms to accommodate traditional activities and approaches of grassroots actors to shared trans-boundary water resources.