Call for water laws to be 'decolonised'
African governments should recognise customary rights to water for millions of small farmers who have been side-lined or ‘criminalised’ by permit systems created during the colonial era, said a study published last week. According to an SABC News report, restrictive permit systems in Kenya, Malawi, SA, Uganda and Zimbabwe have left more than 100m people without access to enough water, according to the report by the Sri Lanka-based International Water Management Institute. Those countries should ‘decolonise statutory water law through a hybrid approach’, according to the report. A hybrid system that recognised both existing permits and included customary laws would improve water access for small farmers, said Barbara Schreiner, a co-author of the report released at a conference in Libreville, Gabon. ‘This is critical for expanding smallholder irrigation,’ said Schreiner, who is executive director of the SA-based advocacy group Pegasys Institute. ‘It will lighten the administrative burden on the state, while making formal legal access to water more equitable,’ she added.