The launch of the WRC Water Currents Policy Series on 14 August 2012, at Leriba Lodge, Centurion, provides a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between scientists, water users, policy makers, senior programme managers and implementers – particularly on one of the most pertinent topics of today – job creation.
This event focuses on water-related job and asset creation in community-driven development, infrastructure and employment programmes, to enhance access to water for domestic and economic uses in a holistic and sustainable manner. As such, this dialogue will be a platform for sharing cutting-edge knowledge and solutions while also bringing key problems to the fore.
South Africa increasingly aims to create jobs and to build vibrant rural communities, and our Government has sought to address this through efforts for domestic water services delivery, by promoting irrigation development, creating employment through programmes like Working for Water and the River Health Programme, and through investment in general and water infrastructure development.
President Jacob Zuma, in his State of the Nation Address 2012, emphasised that, as part of job creation and service provision, water reservoirs, windmills and irrigation schemes would be rehabilitated, stating that "these projects will enhance food security and create work opportunities for many, especially women in rural areas."
As Dhesigen Naidoo, CEO of the WRC explains: "A principle gap in the South African fabric is an insufficiency of solution-oriented discussion to address our challenges. We have a rich repository of smart people in our science and technology system, who need to be tapped into to apply their research capability beyond the laboratory. It is for this reason that the Water Research Commission (WRC) has launched the WRC Water Currents Policy Series with events on topical water issues affecting the South African public, the aim of which is to serve as a platform to exchange ideas and opinions related to water.”
The first 'WRC Dialogue' in this series, on the water sector’s role in job creation, intends to explore practical ways of enhancing the creation of water-related employment and water assets in the South African context, with the goal of universal access to water and sanitation combined with that of sustainable livelihoods in a win-win scenario. In South Africa, communities may, if given the choice through participatory planning, opt for water assets and water conservation in job creation and infrastructure programmes. The importance of water for multiple uses from multiple sources is illustrated, for example, in the Community Work Programme. This participatory employment creation programme has been found to support 45 000 home food gardens and 5 000 community clinic, crèche or school gardens; potable water and sanitation provision to homes, schools, clinics and communal buildings; maintenance activities such as the repair of leakages; cleaning of irrigation canals; nutrient recycling through composting and waste management; water and land conservation and soil erosion prevention such as gulley treatment and managing grazing and watering of livestock; the small businesses that people start with the wages earned; and road and bridge construction.
Naidoo, in expanding on the focus of this first Dialogue, continues, “In most cases, the poor are seen as passive labourers, eternally depending on public wages. What is missing is a participatory planning process in which the poor are in the driver's seat to define their priorities. In addition we are collectively poorer when we don’t invest in the innovation and ingenuity of the communities in developing smart and sustainable solutions. This dialogue will present the most recent lessons on participatory planning in general and in water services and water resource management in particular.”
The Dialogue will also look at the kinds of skills training and capacity building that the water sector can offer – in technical infrastructure design, construction, operation and maintenance; irrigation techniques, agronomic and marketing skills for homestead and small-scale vegetable and crop production; fisheries; institutional capacity building for operation and maintenance; cost-recovery; hygiene and health education; etc. According to a WRC-funded study conducted by Afrosearch and Hlathi Development Services in 2007, the South African Government has put in place a very good enabling policy framework for supporting skills development and training, but which lacks an implementation plan or monitoring and evaluation systems.
Besides South African experiences, for example, with the Community Work Programme, South Africa can learn from India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). This Scheme is a historical breakthrough in simultaneously creating employment and applying community-driven planning on how to allocate available labour. In the Indian experience, water asset creation appeared to be communities’ preferred choice: it boosts local welfare and economy, in addition to providing guaranteed labour to over 55 million poor rural households.
There will be more dialogues of this nature driven by the WRC: visit www.wrc.org.za to see the full schedule for the first WRC Water Currents Policy Series and other events within the WRC Dialogues programme.
Watch this video clip taken during the dialogue.
Opening address by the WRC CEO Dhesigen Naidoo
Dr Kate Phillip, Advisor to the Presidency on Short Term Strategies for Employment Creation Trade and Industrial Policy
Phillip with Shilp Verma IWMI ,India
Barbara van Koppen, Southern Africa Regional Programme International, IWMI
Contact: Hlengiwe Cele, 012 330 9006 / 083 266 9781, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org