International workshop on African Water Laws

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In the past decade, many African governments have been engaging in far-reaching legislative, institutional and financial reforms in the water sector. These reforms have focused on 'Integrated Water Resources Management' and encompass changes to registration, water rights, water fees, and basin-level decision-making. However, these reforms have generally paid little attention to their impact on small-scale water development, use, and management in rural areas. Yet, the large majority of water users live in rural areas and depend heavily on access to rainfall, streams and ponds, groundwater, and wetlands for their health and income from cropping, watering livestock, and small enterprises. Legislation that would improve poor women's and men's access to water would significantly contribute to poverty reduction and agricultural growth. Potential for such water development exists in Africa because water resources are generally abundant, but highly variable and unpredictable within and over the years. The aim of the workshop 'African Water Laws: Plural Legislative Frameworks for Rural Water Development in Africa' (26-28 January 2005) was to explore the options for a more enabling legislative environment in rural areas.

Small-scale water development, use, and management in rural areas are governed by plural legislative frameworks. This fact has hardly been recognized as yet by water resource managers. Yet, water law follows a similar dichotomy as land law between the formal statutory law for 'modern' urban-based and industrializing and large-scale farming sectors, for whom the recent water reforms seem best suited, and the African rural sectors where implementation is much more challenging. Traditionally, this latter sector has relied upon customary laws and norms to manage access to water. Today, pro-poor water legislation and enforcement should also be based on the evolving more inclusive governance structures in rural Africa.

Recognising the contributions that can be gained from examining experiences further afield, the workshop also drew upon the lessons on (plural) water legislation that can be learnt from the vast body of legal and water-related scholarship in Latin America and Asia.


The outputs of the workshop were to:

  1. develop better understanding on the existence and effectiveness of customary water arrangements for rural livelihoods
  2. identify options for statutory arrangements to better recognize customary arrangements to effectively contribute to rural livelihoods
  3. formulate conclusions and recommendations for policy dialogue, implementation strategies and further research


Over 3 days, delegates discussed 33 submitted papers and developed recommendations for action (see statement of the workshop).


Press advisory
PDF 81 kB

First annoucement and call for papers
MS-Word 34 kB

Second annoucement and update

Includes details on payment of workshop admission fees and sponsorship
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Third annoucement and update
Includes venue details
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Enrolment form
Please complete to ensure that you receive all mailings relating to the workshop. To be submitted by 15 October 2004 by all participants.
MS-Word 50 kB

Notes and instructions on preparing papers
Please follow these guidelines and use the Word template when preparing your paper.
MS-Word 90 kB

Notes and instructions on preparing presentations
Please follow these guidelines when preparing your presentation.
MS-Word 58 kB

Note on logistical arrangements
Includes important information like emergency contact telephone numbers.
MS-Word 284 kB