PhD research in the Kafue River Basin: A look at reciprocity and trust

MC Kafue BasinLike many river basins in developing countries, the Kafue River basin in Zambia is subject to competing uses by various users. The basin is home to more than half of the country’s population and is the most utilised river basin for agriculture, industry, hydropower and tourism in Zambia. Intense mining operations in the Copperbelt Province (the main mining region in the country) have resulted in elevated mineral concentrations in the river affecting both flora and fauna downstream. Industrial effluents from textiles industries, fertiliser manufacturing plants, and sugar and petroleum processing plants greatly affect the quality of the water in the basin at a tremendous scale. Deterioration of water quality is thus a major challenge for economic, social and ecological development in the basin.

In response to this, a number of organisations cooperate within the Kafue River basin to improve the water quality and ecosystem integrity of the basin. These arrangements range from loose alliances between like-minded organisations to formal partnerships with established structures. An example is that of World Wide Fund for Nature Zambia (WWF) which under its two programmes – Environmental Flows and Water Stewardship – is working with private sector, civil society and public sector organisations, and farmers groups, to respond to these issues as a way of achieving shared water security. However, such inter-organisational collaborations are constrained by a number of issues: differences in objectives and scope among organisations; varying timelines and resources; and poor coordination and communication between organisations. This consequently leads to non-performance of collaborating arrangements in river basins.

It is under this consideration that Machaya Chomba is undertaking his PhD research, using social exchange theory to examine the role of trust and reciprocity in relationships between organisations in a river basin context. This is aimed at improving collaborative arrangements for water quality management in river basins. This work contributes towards the improving water quality security strand of the International Water Security Network’s research, implemented by Monash South Africa. Machaya is supervised by A/Prof. Bimo Nkhata at Monash South Africa and Prof. Trevor Hill from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal.