Socio-economic, institutional and political aspects

Girls going to an tanzanian school
Girls going to an tanzanian school
Image Credit: Stumptner, A. 2004

Appropriate soil and water conservation measures mostly do not suffice alone to make conservation of natural resources successful and to achieve good living conditions. Some socio-economic, institutional and political aspects have to be taken into consideration.

Socio-economic aspects

In countries where the majority of the population live below the poverty line, soil and water conservation measures must be accompanied by measures to alleviate poverty in order that soil and water conservation may be successful and the goals of Watershed Management can be achieved. Poverty is an essential cause of mismanagement and resulting degradation of natural resources in many places (Hurni 2003; Krüger et al. 1997). An increasing degradation of natural resources in turn aggravates poverty. WM addresses all aspects of this vicious circle. (Bollom 1993). Poverty reduction involves several sectors in which suitable measures are to be implemented: measures to encourage education and health (including measures to combat HIV/AIDS), for instance. Participation of local people in planning, implementing and monitoring of these actions is decisive for sustainable outcomes.

The economic interests and opportunities of the resource users are to be considered and improved in all intended measures (Förch and Schütt 2004 b). Costs of all measures must lie within the available budget of the project. Furthermore, the measures have to be economically viable.

Also crucial in WM is to strengthen gender and minority representation in institutions and decision-making processes.

Institutional aspects

The building and enhancing of institutions is one important key to success in Watershed Management as has been increasingly recognised. Institutions can be defined as the prescriptions that humans use to organise all forms of repetitive and structured interactions including those within families, neighbourhoods, markets, firms, private associations, churches, sport leagues and governments at all scales (Ostrom 2004).

Political aspects

To enable a sound watershed-based planning and management governments often have to create the necessary political frameworks. Decentralisation is a important precondition in order that regional actors can act responsibly.

Legal aspects needing special attention are land rights as well as user and access rights to natural resources. Secure and functioning land right systems are precondition for efficient agricultural production, productive investments or the overall sustainable social and economical development (Zimmermann 2000).

Environmental education and capacity building are also important in WM.