Academic journal article Economics, Management and Financial Markets

The Relevance and Applicability of Performance Indicators in the Limpopo River Basin in Zimbabwe

Academic journal article Economics, Management and Financial Markets

The Relevance and Applicability of Performance Indicators in the Limpopo River Basin in Zimbabwe

Article excerpt


This paper reports on a process that was undertaken between October 2010 and May 2011 to assess how well the River Basin Organization (RBO) presiding over the Limpopo river basin in Zimbabwe, was fulfilling its mandate. A study was undertaken to assess the relevance and applicability of performance indicators through an iterative and interactive process. The process started by identifying the stipulated water management functions and the associated preliminary indicators, which were later refined into provisional and final indicators. Process rather than output indicators were found to be appropriate because of the embryonic stage at which the RBO was at. In general performance indicators were found to be relevant in the basin. However, their effective application depended on taking due account of the national and basin level context. The paper concludes that the process leading to the identification of indicators was more important than the indicators per se as it provided an opportunity for stakeholder engagement on important issues.

JEL Classification: L95, Q25, Q53, 032

Keywords: River Basin Organization, performance management, performance indicators, Limpopo river basin, Zimbabwe

1. Introduction

Since the 1990s, River Basin Organizations (RBOs) have increasingly become the preferred way of managing water resources throughout the world. The concept emerged in the 19th century (Molle, 2009), reached its peak between the 1940s and 1970s during the dam building era (Hooper, 2006), and waned thereafter because of environmental and social concerns. Thus the initial focus on development and management of water resources, epitomized by harnessing economic benefits from water such as hydropower generation, flood control, irrigation and water supply, gave way as the world water crisis came to be defined as a water governance crisis (World Water Forum, 2000). The (re)emergence of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in the 1990s (Lautze at al., 2011; Hooper, 2005; Biswas, 2004), with its focus on secondary generation water issues such as stakeholder participation, cost recovery and water conservation (Merrey, 2008; Merrey, 2009), cemented the shift.

Well-reasoned arguments to the effect that RBOs are very much sociopolitical rather than natural constructs (Lankford and Hepworth, 2010; Molle, 2009; Warner et al., 2008) do not seem to be dislodging RBOs from their new found niche in water resource management in both developed and developing countries. However, in the developed world, such as in Western Europe, the ideas and the financial resources that drive the concept are wholly endogenous. This contrasts sharply with what is happening in the developing world, particularly in Africa, the world's poorest continent, where external ideas and finance mostly drive the concept. In this respect history seems to be repeating itself as the developing world is once again recipients of foreign ideas about water management, just as it copied the Tenesse Valley Authority (TVA) model (Shah et al., 2005). Western governments, acting through their intermediaries of overseas development agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), with the direct or tacit approval of local governments and support from certain sections of civil society, are at the forefront of driving the concept (Sneddon and Fox, 2008). But are contemporary RBOs living up to their billing as conduits of effective water resource management and sustainable development? Attempts to answer this question have led to efforts at assessing the performance of RBOs (Hooper, 2005;Makinetal,2004).

In southern Africa performance assessment of RBOs is critical because they are actively being promoted as part of the wider IWRM philosophy, through a mixture of legal, policy and institutional reforms (Fatch et al., 2010). Zimbabwe was the first country in southern Africa to establish RBOs throughout its territory (Manzungu, 2004). …

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