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Benefit Sharing  

"In the context of transboundary watercourses, benefit sharing may be defined as the process where riparians cooperate in optimising and equitably dividing the goods, products and service connected directly to the watercourse, or arising from the use of its waters" (Phillips and Woodhouse, in press).

The starting point in discussing benefit sharing is that cooperation within an international river basin is seen as desirable and it is understood that a number of benefits will result from cooperation (Sadoff & Grey 2002; Waterbury 2002). These benefits are described as benefits to the river (e.g. improved water quality, environmental protection, etc.), benefits from the river (e.g. hydropower, irrigation, etc.), benefits because of the river (e.g. reduced risk of conflict, increased food security, etc.), and benefits beyond the river (e.g. integration of markets, benefits of regional trade, etc.) (Sadoff & Grey 2002).

Benefit sharing brings win-win situations to the people in Angola and Namibia.
Source: GTZ 2009
( click to enlarge )

Benefit sharing presents an alternative to traditional water management approaches of quantifying absolute amounts of water in a system and focuses instead of the values derived from water uses. Rather than viewing water as a stock in a zero sum equation, benefit sharing views water as “a flux that moves through space and time with variability being the norm (Gleick 2000)”. Through this approach, water can travel through a river system multiple times depending on the level of interventions and technical options available. The constraint within benefit sharing is the availability of technical options, rather than the limitations of the quantity of water within a system (Van Royeen 2008).

Putting Benefit Sharing Into Practice

One of the key components of applying the benefit sharing concept in practice is identifying the potential costs and benefits of cooperation. Potential costs include financial, institutional, political and the loss of unilateral opportunities, while examples of benefits could include environmental protection, and flood and drought mitigation (Qaddumi 2008). Benefit sharing presents the opportunity for issue linking to expand potential benefits, such as linking a water agreement to favourable trade agreements in other sectors.

Once the range of potential costs and benefits of cooperation have been articulated, mechanisms for redistributing these costs and benefits can be identified. Mechanisms can include payment for water, payments for power-purchasing agreements and financing and ownership arrangements (Qaddumi 2008). The Lesotho Highlands Water Project illustrates benefit sharing in practice through payment for water, purchase agreements for power, and financing arrangements (Qaddumi 2008).

Cooperation in a transboundary river can take many forms, ranging from sharing data to joint management. Preliminary technical cooperation can help to create a conducive environment that could lead to broader cooperation. Achieving cooperation requires an effective national policy and regulatory framework, as well as supportive regional initiatives. Within the Kunene River basin, achieving benefit sharing will be supported by regional initiatives, such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which places transboundary water management central in its agenda.

Benefit Sharing in SADC

SADC is in the process of developing a SADC Guideline on Benefit Sharing. An interim document was produced, entitled ‘SADC Concept Paper on Benefit Sharing and Transboundary Water Management and Development'. Benefits are classified into eight categories, as depicted in the Benefit Wheel.

The Benefit Wheel enables a tiered approach to assessing benefits. This allows for an assessment of the benefits to the entire basin, as well as to certain portions of the basin (i.e. upper or lower). Although mainly conceptual in nature, the Benefit Wheel concept supports quantifying benefits to some degree. For example, within the Hydrology component, the available renewable water resource on a per capita basis can be coupled to the dependency ratio. The Benefit Wheel approach also allows one to consider the external or out-of-basin benefits, derived from transboundary basins, such as Virtual Water used for agricultural or industrial purposes.

The Benefit Wheel discusses the key drivers to the upper and lower basins. It recognises the driver of hydropower development in the upper basin, while also emphasising the importance of agricultural and other needs for water volumes for downstream users.

Benefit Sharing Diagram.
Source: SADC n.d.
( click to enlarge )

Benefit Sharing in the Kunene Basin

Alam et al. (2009) refer to benefit-sharing in the Senegal River basin, and the wider cooperation this achieved, with a focus on hydroelectric power (HEP) production. Benefit-sharing in the Kunene basin in terms of HEP may also be the best local example of the wider positive effects of the approach. Water Use Agreements with a significant focus on HEP, first signed in the 1960s, survived largely unchanged through major political upheavals in Namibia and Angola, while on the whole maintaining benefits (infrastructure, financial and power production) for both countries.

An important example for benefit sharing between Angola and Namibia in the Kunene basin is the Calueque dam with the water transfer scheme.




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