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Journal Article: Political ecologies of water in South Africa: A literature review, by Magalie Bourblanc

In WIREs Water, GovInn researcher Dr Magalie Bourblanc and David Blanchon have published an article titled “Political ecologies of water in South Africa: A literature review”.

Abstract:

Given the existence of a thriving epistemic community on water sciences, the high politicization of environmental issues in the country as well as the active mobilization of a grassroot movement inspired by environmental justice, South Africa appears to be an ideal case to study the development of a political ecology (PE) approach. Moreover, since the apartheid regime, water issues have long represented a marker of extreme inequality.This paper aims at drawing a panorama of the PE of water in South Africa, its main topics and approaches. In our definition, the PE of water is concerned with human–environment relations, with explicit considerations for power relations. In the first section, we identified texts that, according to this definition, constitute the core of the PE of water in South Africa, going beyond a mere “politics of water.” In the second section and in the discussion, we undertook an in-depth analysis of the main topics addressed by authors, such as environmental flows, “free basic water policy,” prepaid water meters. PE of water is strongly connected to international debates about the link between water and power, but also capable of addressing in a critical way the specificities of the South African waterscape. It stems from this review that critical PE in urban settings in particular dominates the discipline. We could also note that the PE of water in rural areas tends to put a bigger emphasis on the “politics of ecology” whereas urban PE tends to focus more on the “ecology in politics,” although both thrive to examine the human–environment relations in an integrated manner.

 

You can read the full article here, or through the DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/wat2.1371

‘Development brokers and gatekeepers: two critical figures of public policies tackling rural poverty in South Africa’, by Magalie Bourblanc in Cahiers Agricultures.

GovInn Senior Researcher Magalie Bourblanc published the article ‘Development brokers and gatekeepers: two critical figures of public policies tackling rural poverty in South Africa‘ in Cahiers Agricultures.

 

This paper studies the implementation of national public policies tackling rural poverty in South Africa and draws a parallel with international development aid public policies, stressing in particular one of their common predicaments, i.e. their relative ineffectiveness. Building on the key notion of “brokerage” in anthropology, and coupling it with the notion of “gatekeeping” derived from the political science literature, this paper demonstrates how much brokers strive to become hegemonic intermediaries within a very competitive brokerage environment. This paper questions the relations between new and pre-existing figures of brokerage, i.e. between an irrigation committee’s governing board and village’s traditional elites.

Read the whole article here : https://www.cahiersagricultures.fr/articles/cagri/abs/2018/05/cagri170198/cagri170198.html

‘Expert assessment as a framing exercise: The controversy over green macroalgal blooms’ proliferation in France’, by Magalie Bourblanc in Science and Public Policy.

GovInn’s Senior Researcher Magalie Bourblanc published the article ‘Expert assessment as a framing exercise: The controversy over green macroalgal blooms’ proliferation in France‘ in Science and Public Policy.

This article contributes to unraveling the ‘paradox of scientific authority’, that is, the fact that despite the loss of authority of scientific expertise, policymakers still resort to expert advice. Re-examining the role ascribed to expert assessment in the policy-making process in controversial contexts in particular, the article succeeds in demonstrating that one of the crucial roles of expert evaluation is to establish a more compelling definition of the problem to be dealt with by policymakers. Taking the scientific controversy surrounding the proliferation of green algal bloom on Brittany beaches (France) as a case in point, I show that expert assessment conceived as a framing exercise is, however, a two-way process: it is as much about framing for the sake of settling an expert dispute with sound scientific categories than about solving public problems in a sufficiently consensual way, taking into account the distribution of power more generally in society.

 

Read the whole article here: https://academic.oup.com/spp/advance-article/doi/10.1093/scipol/scy056/5123559

‘Cape Town should serve as a wake up call for managing water in South Africa’, by Magalie Bourblanc in The Conversation

GovInn’s Senior Researcher Magalie Bourblanc published the article ‘Cape Town should serve as a wake up call for managing water in South Africa‘ in The Conversation.

Cape Town’s misfortune can certainly teach the rest of the country lessons. Among these is the fact that a problem can escalate quickly if there isn’t adequate planning. As a semi-arid country and the 30th driest in the world, South Africa is used to operating and managing its sophisticated water supply system under drought conditions. It is supposed to do this by planning for future water needs ahead of time and by swiftly implementing water restrictions to different sectors at the earliest signs of a drought

Read the whole article here: https://theconversation.com/cape-town-should-serve-as-a-wake-up-call-for-managing-water-in-south-africa-91107

AFGROLAND workshop at GovInn on large agricultural investment and agro-food-energy changes, 15-18.01.2018

GovInn hosts a workshop consolidating the results of the AFGROLAND project on the 15th-18th January. The AFGROLAND project is funded by the BELMONT forum, the South African NRF, the French ANR and the Swiss FNSFN and looks at ‘African Food, Agriculture, Land and Natural Resource Dynamics, in the context of global agro-food-energy system changes’. Extensive field research on large agricultural investments was conducted in Mozambique, Kenya, and Madagascar.

More information about AFGROLAND can be found here: http://afgroland.net/Pages/default.aspx

‘Promoting equity in water access: the limits of fairness of a rural water programme in semi-arid Mozambique’, by Magalie Bourblanc, 23.08.2017

GovInn’s Senior Researcher Magalie Bourblanc published together with Raphaelle Ducrot the article ‘Promoting equity in water access: the limits of fairness of a rural water programme in semi-arid Mozambique‘ in the journal Natural Resources Forum.

Bridging the water infrastructure gap has become a major policy concern. In rural areas of Africa, access to water is as much constrained by territorial coverage as it is by the poor conditions of water points due to the difficulty in mobilizing communities for repairs. This paper examines the equity considerations of a rural water and sanitation programme in a district of Mozambique, and their impacts on the achievement of the programme’s objectives. Our analysis underlines the contradictions in the conceptualization of equity in the design, planning and implementation of the programme. Even an explicitly pro-poor strategy can fall short of delivering equity. Our findings stress the fact that overlooking local perception of equity can have a direct impact on the ability of a community to ensure the maintenance of their water points. They call for a careful definition of equity in the design of water programmes, as well as closer attention to this criterion as a precondition to achieving the long-term objective of the programme.

Read the full article here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1477-8947.12128/abstract

‘Managing or governing water resources? Real-time model and the management of the scarcity on the Crocodile River (South Africa)’, by Magalie Bourblanc, 04.08.2017

 

GovInn’s Senior Researcher Magalie Bourblanc published together with David Blanchon the article ‘Managing or governing water resources? Real-time model and the management of the scarcity on the Crocodile River (South Africa)‘ in the journal Natures Sciences Sociétés (in French).

In this article we analyse three sociotechnical devices that have been implemented to deal with water scarcity on the Crocodile River (South Africa): a resource re-allocation and redistribution process called “compulsory licensing”, a computerised real-time management model and the operationalisation of environmental flows on a monthly and even daily basis. Our analysis highlights the extent to which such sociotechnical devices, far from managing water resources from a purely technical perspective, actually perform as instruments governing water resources. In that respect, they have been able to neutralise specific regulatory provisions and public policy objectives that were at the heart of South Africa’s transformation agenda. In addition, we demonstrate that water scarcity does not represent a real fatality on the Crocodile River but largely stems from management decisions.

Find the full article here: https://www.nss-journal.org/articles/nss/abs/2017/02/nss170022/nss170022.html

‘State Transformation and Policy Networks: The Challenging Implementation of New Water Policy Paradigms in Post-Apartheid South Africa’, by Magalie Bourblanc

GovInn’s Senior Researcher Magalie Bourblanc published the article ‘State transformation and policy networks: The challenging implementation of new water policy paradigms in post-apartheid South Africa‘ in the journal Water Alternatives.

For many years, South Africa had represented a typical example of a hydrocracy. Following the democratic transition in South Africa, however, new policy paradigms emerged, supported by new political elites from the ANC. A reform of the water policy was one of the priorities of the new Government, but with little experience in water management, they largely relied on ‘international best practices’ in the water sector, although some of these international principles did not perfectly fit the South African water sector landscape. In parallel, a reform called ‘transformation’ took place across all public organisations with the aim of allowing public administrations to better reflect the racial components in South African society. As a result, civil engineers lost most of their power within the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation (DWS). However, despite these changes, demand-side management has had difficulties in materializing on the ground. The paper aims at discussing the resilience of supply-side management within the Ministry, despite its new policy orientation. Using a policy network concept, the paper shows that the supply-side approach still prevails today, due to the outsourcing of most DWS tasks to consulting firms with whom DWS engineers have nourished a privileged relationship since the 1980s. The article uses the decision-making process around the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) Phase 2 as an emblematic case study to illustrate such developments. This policy network, which has enjoyed so much influence over DWS policies and daily activities, is now being contested. As a consequence, we argue that the fate of the LHWP Phase 2 is ultimately linked to a competition between this policy network and a political one.

Read the full article here: http://www.water-alternatives.org/index.php/alldoc/articles/vol10/v10issue2/357-a10-2-7

 

 

Path Dependence in Nebo Plateau: Strategic Partnerships and Rural Poverty Alleviation in South African Small-Scale Irrigation Schemes

GovInn’s Senior Researcher Magalie Bourblanc published together with Raphaëlle Ducrot and Everisto Mapedze the article “Path Dependence in Nebo Plateau: Strategic Partnerships and Rural Poverty Alleviation in South African Small-Scale Irrigation Schemes” in the Journal of Southern African Studies.

To address the challenges associated with under-utilised smallholder irrigation schemes located in former homeland areas in South Africa, strategic partnerships between black farmers and white, established commercial farmers have been implemented by the Limpopo Provincial Department of Agriculture since the 2000s. This article aims to explain the adoption, and then the resilience over time, of this policy instrument, despite its failure to meet its objectives. We first demonstrate that policy instruments rarely result from an objective assessment of the situation at stake, and more often simply recycle previously used policies that were designed in attempts to provide solutions to other scenarios, which may not reflect the same characteristics as the situation currently under investigation. We then argue that the resilience of the particular policy instrument called ‘strategic partnership’ has been ensured thanks to a mechanism of ‘path dependence’ that is derived from previous policy decisions. Indeed, we demonstrate how the legacy of these earlier, primary policy choices makes it difficult to re-evaluate policy decisions favourable to strategic partnerships. Building on neo-institutionalist theories (sociological, historical and rational) that emphasise continuity within public policies, it will be made clear how strategic partnerships ultimately imposed themselves as a foregone policy ‘choice’, despite their disappointing results.

Read the article here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03057070.2017.1283917