A realistic approach to water reform in Zimbabwe
van der Zaag, Pieter
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Current water reforms that are underway in Zimbabwe, by design or default, seem to be completing the country's agrarian and rural development history. After an exclusive focus on land reform for a greater part of the 17 year postcolonial period, the issue of access to and control over water is now high on the agenda. Bringing water into the agrarian equation in a country characterized by periodic and seasonal droughts, and huge seasonal variations in water resource endowments (Cleaver, 1995: 314-315), can only be described as timely. It must, however, be noted that, due to historical reasons, access to water resources is skewed along racial lines: a minority white commercial farming community has access to the bulk of the country's resources to the disadvantage of the majority black farmers. Acknowledging that water is a vital element in the social and economic development of the country is one thing and instituting effective measures in support of this fact another. In this chapter we suggest that effective measures in water reform come from the application of a realistic approach to the subject. By realistic we mean identifying the essential elements of water reform. This involves answering the How's and Why's of water reform. One crucial aspect of a realistic approach, we suggest, is that it must be both systematic and pragmatic. Water reform must proceed along a well-defined transparent path in order to avoid adhocracy and concealed favoritism. It must also be pragmatic in relation to both the envisaged water use and the present beneficial use of water in some sectors of the economy.