The Sabie-Sand Catchment will stand as a model of sustainable social, environmental and economic development.
AWARD`s mission is to develop and test new and appropriate ways of managing water to address issues of water security in the catchment, both through wise resource management and equitable allocation. We do this by adopting a research-based approach to implementation that is holistic and integrated and that accommodates the meaningful participation of the inhabitants of the catchment.
The past decade has seen the emergence and development of what is now the Association for Water and Rural Development [AWARD]. This took place during a particularly significant time in South Africa`s history, for it has been a time of immense political change that marked South Africa`s transition to democracy. This period has been characterised by a major upheaval in all of the governing frameworks from the constitution to the various policies that underscored the country`s commitment to a new, free and fair country. These changes have influenced and moulded AWARD. In taking up the new challenges, the organisation has interacted with this context and influenced the evolving landscape.
Today AWARD is recognised as a multi-disciplinary NGO that is values driven. In essence, AWARD has been inherently driven by the concept of giving a voice to the voiceless – both to the previously disenfranchised and to the environment. The organisation works with a rich mix: implementing water resource conservation and village projects; awareness raising and capacity building of village, local government and government actors; and research and policy development. This is done within the framework of Integrated Catchment Management and new water laws and policies, and in the specific context of the Sand River Catchment. Moreover, AWARD is based in the area where it works, which gives it credibility as a local stakeholder in the catchment. Its work is widely recognised locally and in the water and environmental management sectors in South Africa and internationally.
However if we ask two hard questions, we can enquire; is there more water in the villages than there was before; and is there more water in the river? To these questions we have to say mostly there is not. A recent evaluation of five village projects highlights that despite AWARD`s interventions and the confidence and good understanding of the water committees, in the majority of cases the systems are bedevilled by pumps breaking down and delays in repair, by reluctance from villagers to pay for diesel when DWAF pays for electricity in a neighbouring village, by a bulk supplier suddenly diverting water elsewhere. These problems are largely to do with institutional transition and lack of capacity. We can say that we see people in the catchment starting to negotiate from a platform of greater equity and understanding, that village committees are better informed and are making some strategic decisions, that there are signs of co-operation and a willingness to integrate activities from government`s side. It must be recognised that there is a long way to go before tangible improvements in peoples` lives and the environment will be widely visible: this is not a short-term undertaking.
AWARD has two areas of programming at this time: catchment level water security [focusing on water resource management], and village level water security [with a primary focus on village water supply]. We have committed ourselves to working towards that admirable slogan of our Department of Water Affairs and Forestry regarding water: Some, for all, for ever. AWARD plans to strengthen institutional linkages at all levels, from local to national. AWARD will continue with the work of developing and promoting methodologies to demonstrate meaningful participation and facilitating integration and cooperation in the catchment. As a small ngo, situated in a remote rural area, we are deepening and widening partnerships to increase our capacity to implement the work we undertake.