Establishment of a catchment monitoring network through a participatory approach in a rural community in South Africa
HYDROLOGY AND EARTH SYSTEM SCIENCES
University of Kwazulu Natal
The establishment of a catchment monitoring network is a process, from the inception of the idea to its implementation, the latter being the construction of relevant gauging structures and installation of the various instruments. It is useful that the local communities and other stakeholders are involved and participate in such a process, as was highlighted during the establishment of the hydrological monitoring network in the Potshini catchment in Bergville District in the KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. The paper highlights the participatory establishment of a hydrological monitoring network in a small rural inhabited catchment, in line with the overall objective of the Smallholder System Innovations (SSI) research programme, to monitor hydrological processes at both field and catchment scale for water resources management research purposes. The engagement and participation of the Potshini community precipitated a learning opportunity for both the researchers and the local community on (i) the understanding of hydrological processes inherent in the catchment (ii) appreciating the inherent dynamics in establishing a catchment monitoring network in the midst of a community (iii) paradigm shift on how to engage different stakeholders at different levels of participation. The participatory engagement in the monitoring process led to appreciation and uptake of some of the research results by the Potshini community and ensured continued support from all stakeholders. This paper is of the view that the participation of the local community and other stakeholders in catchment monitoring and instilling a sense of ownership and management of natural resources to the local communities needs to be encouraged at all times. Success stories in water resources management by local communities can be realized if such a process is integrated with other development plans in the catchment at all forums, with due recognition of the social dynamics of the communities living in the catchment.