Indigenous People, Women and Water: The Importance of Local Knowledge for Project Planning in an African Context

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2003


The policy of actively involving indigenous populations in decision-making processes on water reform is not being successfully implemented in African countries such as Sierra Leone. The concept of water as a marketable commodity promoted by the national government and global interests contrasts with the more holistic view of water in traditional society. Conflict arises where water sources on which communities depend are taken over for mining, hydroelectric power or agricultural schemes without adequate consultation. Traditional livelihoods are disrupted and questions of equity and the notion of water as a common good arise. Protests by indigenous people limit project success and account for loss of capital investments. This paper discusses: (1) three case studies that illustrate existing problems in the water sector of Sierra Leone; (2) issues and challenges involved in devising and administering a sustainable water policy; (3) a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary approach to planning that is essential for conflict resolution and prevention-key factors in the sustainable development process.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Greener Management International, v. 42, p. 67-75