The Story of Water in Windhoek: A Narrative Approach to Interpreting a Transdisciplinary Process

The aim of the paper is to present a story about the 2015 to early 2017 Windhoek drought in the context of climate change while using the narrative approach. The story that is presented here is derived from the engagement of participants in a transdisciplinary, co-productive workshop, the Windhoek Learning Lab 1 (March 2017), as part of the FRACTAL Research Programme. The results show that the story starts with the ‘complication’ where the drought had reached crisis levels where the water demand increasingly exceeded the supply in the face of the drought. The City of Windhoek (CoW) was unable to address the problem, particularly the recharging of the Windhoek aquifer due to lack of funding. Phase 2 then shows four reactions to the drought: water conservation by water demand management; a Water Saving campaign; the Windhoek Managed Aquifer Recharge Scheme; and, the setting up of the Cabinet Technical Committee of Supply Security. The resolution of the story, Phase 4, is when the national government instructs NamWater to provide the funds for CoW to complete the recharging of the aquifer, which supplied water to the city at the last minute at the end of 2016. The final situation of the story is that ongoing collaborative work by CoW with FRACTAL on the city’s burning issues is planned to integrate climate change into future decision making for the longer term. The main actors in the story are the Ministry of Agriculture and NamWater as hero and villain, and CoW a hero, with the victims of the story, the residents of informal settlements. The main learnings from this story are that the lack of decentralization of power and resources serve to exacerbate water crises at the local level and hamper climate adaptation, despite a proactive and innovative local municipality. The paper also shows that the narrative approach provides the thread of the story to simplify a very complex set of arrangements and contradictions.