Across East Africa, including in Uganda, it is recognized that catchment based water resources planning, management, and development down to the local level is the key to enhanced water management. This approach is seen as essential for sustainable and integrated water resources management (IWRM) where an opportunity for involvement of all stakeholders, including non-state actors exists.
Uganda has decided to decentralize some of the water resources management functions to the lower levels (catchments and/or water management zones) in order to promote stakeholder participation and the principles of IWRM. This was a core recommendation of the Water Resources Management Sub-Sector Reform Study completed in 2005. A catchment perspective is the key to enhanced water resources management in Uganda and is seen as an opportunity for involvement of all stakeholders. The country is in the early stages of establishing four catchment-based Water Management Zones (WMZs), but has not formally defined and devolved responsibilities to local water user associations
IUCN was invited to share experiences based on the Water and Nature Initiative (WANI) in the Aswa catchment at a workshop on Integrated Catchment Planning Process on November 18, 2011 at the Golf Course Hotel, Kampala held by the Ministry of Water and Environment, Directorate of Water Resources Management in collaboration with the World Bank.
The WANI project is supporting the implementation of catchment based water management spearheaded by the Directorate of Water Resources Management in the Ministry of Water and Environment. Specifically the project is supporting the set-up of the catchment management structure in Otuke district which falls within Aswa catchment basin and Upper Nile Management Zone.
Through stakeholder involvement the project has undertaken a number of activities including Participatory mapping, assessment of catchment status and stakeholder analysis. This has led to a campaign around public awareness of IWRM principles and the new national water resources management strategy. The project has also trained and established a Catchment Facilitation Team (CFT) to facilitate dialogue with communities. This was based on lessons and approaches developed in Tanzania and Kenya. The CFT then facilitated the establishment of 4 water resources user groups (WUGs), which have mobilized communities to develop micro-catchment management plans.
The various WUGs were brought together to form a Water User Association (WUA) which analyzed and synthesized the micro-catchment management plans into a sub-catchment management plan (SCMP). This means linking the local level to a wider sub-catchment scale for water resources management. The WUAs (guided by IUCN and the government) are now piloting catchment restoration actions such as stream bank and wetland boundary demarcation to allow natural vegetation to regenerate, and promoting the growing of upland rice and other crops as opposed to paddy rice that leads farmers toward streambank and wetland encroachment. In terms of communications and learning, the project has facilitated a learning exchange visit for the WUA to the Victoria Water Management Zone (VWMZ) where there is another IUCN project site along L.Nakivale in SW Uganda. The site presents learning experiences where communities are erecting soil and water conservation structures and have planted a 5km stretch of lake buffer zone with a 50 metre wide woodlot of grivelea robusta to reduce lake sedimentation. There has been feedback through local radios and meetings on the catchment approach to water resources management. With the Upper Nile Water Management Zone UNWMZ , IUCN is enabling the establishment and support of higher-level water governance structures.