Angola Namibia About Tutorial Glossary Documents Images Maps Google Earth go
Please provide feedback! Click for details
Home The River Basin People and the River Governance Resource Management
Water Governance



send a comment



Capacity Development for Institutions  

“’Capacity’ means the ability of people, organisations and society as a whole to successfully manage their affairs, and ‘capacity building’ means a process whereby people organisations and society as a whole unleash, strengthen, create, adapt and maintain capacity over time” (OECD-DAC 2006).

Capacity building (development) implies that “people instead of plans or structures are drivers for change and performance” (Pres 2008). Capacity development is a long term process that includes training, dialogue, networking and advisory services (InWEnt 2006). It requires a flexible approach, adapted and customised to meet organisational and individual needs.

Many river basin organisations are not fully able to deal with the complex and dynamic nature of transboundary water management. Challenges include excessive bureaucracy (which results in over-regulation), resourcing issues with staff, programming that is technically oriented rather than strategic, and, too often, weak decision making and conflicting priorities (Pres 2008).

Capacity development, in the context of a transboundary river basin, requires the following core components (Pres 2008):

  • Professional knowledge: Managerial aspects of water, including the financial, strategic and business planning.
  • Methodological competence: Human resources development and organisational performance improvement (i.e. training-the-trainers and coaching).
  • Regional cooperation: Networking between water sector institutions and stakeholders within a particular area.
  • Training-needs assessment, monitoring, and evaluation: Feedback loop to address new capacity development requirements.
  • Public relations and awareness: Creating awareness among the general public about pressing water management and utilisation issues.
  • Communities of practice: Sharing best practices and lessons learned to revise future programs.

Over 115 indicators for mature River Basin Organisations were developed by the Institute for Water Resources (IWR 2006) grouped into the following categories:

  • Coordinated decision-making;
  • Responsive decision-making;
  • Goals, goal shift and goal completion;
  • Financial sustainability;
  • Organisational design;
  • Role of law;
  • Training and capacity development;
  • Information and research;
  • Accountability and monitoring; and
  • Private and public sector roles.

Building the Capacity of Indigenous Institutions

Much of the available material on institutional development and capacity building is based on Western institutional models and approaches. Rather than try to transplant these models into an African context, it has been suggested that a more sustainable and lasting approach is for the water sector to make more use of existing indigenous institutions. Transnational river basin management institutions may achieve a higher degree of legitimacy and effectiveness in the long run if they are based on African institutional models. More work needs to be done to document appropriate existing institutions and a creative consultative political process developed to build on these foundations (Merrey 2009).

Stakeholder training for rural water planning.
Source: Tump 2007
( click to enlarge )

Institutional Capacity within the Basin

Water Sector Capacity Development in Angola

In its 2004 Water and Sanitation Sector Development Strategy, the Government of Angola highlighted the shortage of adequately trained staff at all levels of water sector institutions. This is clearly a major constraint to the implementation both of the national Strategy, and also of regional initiatives such as Kunene river basin management.

A multi-year national programme has been agreed with the World Bank to develop water sector institutions (World Bank 2008). Amongst a series of infrastructure development objectives, the programme focuses on capacity building at national /provincial levels, capacity building at water company level and technical assistance to facilitate change management and good governance.

River Basin planning for the Kunene River basin needs to make use of existing capacity development initiatives and nurture appropriate institutions to take IWRM forward in the basin.

Water Sector Capacity Development in Namibia

The Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, with the support of the Deutsche Geselleschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), has developed a guidebook called Basin Management Approach, a document that sets out the principles of the basin management approach and the processes required to establish basin management committees in Namibia.

SADC through the Danida funded Regional Water Sector Programme has supported the processes of establishing the Omaruru - Lower Swakop Basin Management Committee.

Since 2002 UNESCO is strengthening institutional capacities on water management within the Framework Programme for Research, Education and Training in Water (FETWater). FETWater is a programme for effective cooperation in research, education, training and capacity building initiatives to achieve integrated water resource management in Namibia and several other countries in Southern Africa.

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) offers an advanced international training programme on Transboundary Water Management in Namibia. The overall objective of the training programme is that the participants identify the advantages of collaborative transboundary water management strategies and improve their ability to apply these strategies in their respective organisations.

The training course “Water for People” at the Polytechnic School of Windhoek provides students with basics of IWRM.

Regional and International Capacity Building Networks


WaterNet is a regional network of university departments and research and training institutes specialising in water. The network aims to build regional institutional and human capacity in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) through training, education, research and outreach, harnessing the complementary strengths of member institutions in the region and elsewhere.

The University of Zimbabwe and UNESCO-IHE jointly developed the concept of pooling expertise among universities in the region, to establish a broad and multi-disciplinary programme with specialisation tailored to a wide spectrum of postgraduate students.

This concept became the WaterNet programme, subsequently endorsed by SADC Water Sector and the Global Water Partnership (GWP). Eighteen institutions founded WaterNet in March 2000 in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, with funding from DGIS and SIDA.

WaterNet is a successful example of a regional network, with 56 education and knowledge institutes in Southern and Eastern Africa offering joint education, training and research in Integrated Water Resources Management. UNESCO-IHE is one of the founding members of WaterNet and provides academic backstopping and advice to the Network.

Since 2003, WaterNet has offered a Master's Degree Programme in Integrated Water Resources Management. Over 26 course modules have been developed for the Masters programme, and six specialisations are offered:

  • Water Resources Management, at the University of Zimbabwe;
  • Water and Environment, at the University of Malawi;
  • Hydrology, at the University of Dar es Salaam;
  • Water for People, at the Polytechnic of Namibia;
  • Water and Society, at the University of Western Cape; and
  • Water and Land, at the University of Botswana.

Each year several short courses are also offered to water sector specialists.

The comparative strength of the members allows for a high quality comprehensive Masters programme and joint research activities. Pooling expertise is seen as the most efficient method towards education and research that is truly inter-disciplinary, encompassing all the important aspects of Integrated Water Resources Management. The collaboration will help to enhance the capacity to deal with cross-border issues within the region. As of 2007, 173 students have graduated (UNESCO 2009).


Cap-Net is an international network for capacity development in IWRM. It leverages international, regional and national institutions and networks committed to capacity development in the water sector through support for IWRM and the achievement of the MDGs.

Cap-Net aims to tackle the lack of capacity in the water sector through three key lessons: strengthening local ownership, developing partnerships to overcome capacity constraints and assisting capacity development service providers to respond to demands.

In the face of the challenges posed by transformation, it is often possible for international co-operating partners to bypass or undermine local capacity as efforts move forward. Cap-Net proposes that the development of local knowledge and capacity should be the primary focus of co-operation, starting with ownership for any programme of work.

The Cap-Net approach also promotes the development of partnerships to create multi-disciplinary teams and utilising new technologies to create teams whose critical mass can overcome a lack of capacity.

Finally, Cap-Net supports the development of a capacity development environment that takes into consideration the capacity development needs of recipients above everything else. Cap-Net provides an impressive array of training and capacity development materials on its website, which in most cases are also available on CD-ROM and in printed form.

Global Water Partnership South Africa

The Global Water Partnership (GWP) established South Africa’s Action Programmes in Pretoria in 2002 to promote integrated approaches to water resources management to serve the poor. The goal is to inform policy makers of the water-related needs of the poor and successful approaches of using water as a tool to combat poverty. The Partnership helps to support the government in drafting statements on water and poverty.

The GWP's Regional Program in Southern Africa is designed to support poverty reduction efforts through networking, collaboration and coordinated development and sustainable management of the water resources in the region (GWP 2009b). Capacity building initiatives are coordinated through WaterNet, while information sharing initiatives are facilitated through the Southern Africa Water Information Network (SAWINET).

The partner countries in GWP Southern Africa are: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Country Water Partnerships in GWP Southern Africa are: Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe (GWP 2009b).


FETWater, the Framework Programme for Research, Education and Training in Water, is designed to promote effective cooperation in research, education, training and capacity development initiatives to achieve integrated water resource management in South Africa. FETWater supports training networks created to build capacity in integrated water resource management. FETWater provides institutional support and seed funding to encourage the creation of training networks as a method for effective co-operation between universities, research institutions, and the public and private sectors in South Africa.

The main funders of the FETWater Programme are the Flemish Government, UNESCO, and the South African Government (Department of Water Affairs - DWA).

Under Phase I (2002-2005), FETWater achieved the following (UNESCO 2009):

  • Training to strengthen international co-operation, develop effective co-operative approaches to building human resource capacity for IWRM, and learn from the European experiences in training and capacity development via networks.
  • In the reporting period, three networks that reflect the general principles and priorities of FETWater were identified, established and received financial support.
  • Two capacity audits were conducted to support and complement existing national initiatives, programmes and activities.
  • An innovative groundwater manual and accompanying software was developed to address identified capacity-building and training needs in the sector.
  • A total of 391 professionals and Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) South Africa staff were trained, including two scientists from Namibia, along with 23 students throughout the nine provinces in South Africa. The latter training contributed to transformation in the water sector by improving the capacity of previously disadvantaged groups and individuals.
  • Achieved effective cooperation through active participation of partners from 10 Universities, various professional service providers, the Water Research Commission as well as the Department of Water Affairs.

Water Research Fund for Southern Africa (WARFSA)

WARFSA was established in 1997 as a regional network for education, training and research in the SADC region to ensure the availability of water for social and economic development. Its specific objectives are:

  • To promote and facilitate the implementation of multidisciplinary research projects in integrated water resources management in the region;
  • To promote the utilisation of research results for decision-making aimed at ensuring sustainable development of water resources in the region; and
  • To encourage research that leads to better use of precipitation to increase land productivity or availability of water for domestic use.

WARFSA has engaged in capacity-building efforts on several fronts: offering training courses in proposal development, facilitating on-the-job training of graduate students (within WARFSA projects), providing peer review to applicants through the referee system, holding annual symposia (with WaterNet) bringing grantees together, and organising monitoring visits to "problem projects".




Explore the sub-basins of the Kunene River

Video Interviews about the integrated and transboundary management of the Kunene River basin

Explore the principles of Integrated Water Resource Management applied to the Kunene