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Founder : Len Abrams
Water Policy International

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"Making Water Everybody’s Business"

A Knowledge Program on Water Policy
for African Journalists

(February 17 - March 22, 2000)

Report on the Program


Workshop "Making Water Everybody’s Business"

Durban, South Africa, February 17-20, 2000
E-Mail Discussion Group
February 22 - March 12, 2000
Second World Water Forum
The Hague, The Netherlands, March 17-22, 2000

This report summarizes the contents and outcomes of a composite knowledge program for African journalists spread over about one month. The program’s objective was to increase press coverage related to water issues in Africa and to improve the quality and objectivity of this coverage.

The program was made possible thanks to the financial support of the Government of the United Kingdom through the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility and of the Government of The Netherlands, in addition to the World Bank and the Water Utility Partnership.


The organizing team:

This report was prepared to communicate the results of the workshop informally and with the least possible delay. Its findings, interpretations, and conclusions should not be attributed in any manner to the organizers, their affiliated organizations, to members of their Boards of Executive Directors or the countries they represent, to the participants or the organizations to which they belong.


This report summarizes the contents and outcomes of a composite knowledge program for African journalists spread over about one month (February 17 - March 22, 2000). The overall objective of the program was to increase press coverage related to water issues in Africa and to improve the quality and objectivity of this coverage. The program was composed of three parts: (a) a workshop "Making Water Everybody’s Business", which lasted three and half days, including a half-day field trip, and was attended by thirty-two journalists from nine African countries; (b) immediately after the workshop, an E-Mail Discussion among the journalists, to help them retain a connection between themselves, maintain a level of enthusiasm and help generate a few stories; and (c) participation in the Second World Water Forum in The Hague.


1. Faced with growing populations, generally poor services and daunting financing requirements, many African governments are changing the way they manage their water sector. Governments need to make policy decisions to address the institutional and financial shortcomings which lead to inadequate water services delivery, affecting mostly the poor, and to environmental degradation.

These reforms often imply unpopular choices, such as increasing water prices, redesigning subsidy schemes, or restructuring institutions (for instance by introducing private sector participation, or by reducing or re-deploying staff in government agencies). These policy choices are often misreported and misunderstood.

Civil society and the public at large need to understand why change is needed and the issues at stake, so that reforms can be decided and implemented with full public support. To generate such understanding and support, the press should play a critical role. In this respect, the press is seen as a strategic partner in building consensus from policy makers, NGOs and the public at large.

Water issues are among the leading topics of public debate. Numerous national, regional and global water conferences are taking place. For instance, March 17-22, 2000, the Second World Water Forum in The Hague was the largest event ever organized to raise awareness of the world’s water issues.

Yet, for most of these events, reporting and dissemination are scanty, inaccurate or biased.

Need to Support Media Organizations and Journalists

2. Media organizations in developing countries and economies in transition benefit from unprecedented opportunities stemming from increased press freedom in many countries, and from new information communication technologies, especially the Internet.

However, many media organizations and journalists face challenges in reporting on complex issues of environment, institutional and social issues, and in fulfilling their role of informing and shaping public debate.

This is in part because they are not familiar with the disciplines (such as environmental sciences, economics, and public policy analysis) needed to analyze and interpret complex issues, and many journalists have limited access to the information that is essential to analytical reporting

Workshop’s Partners and Sponsors

3. The Water Utility Partnership for Capacity Building - Africa (WUP), the World Bank Institute (WBI) and the Zamcom Educational Trust (ZAMCOM) joined forces to organize this workshop.

WUP is a joint capacity building program to increase the coverage of water supply and sanitation services in Africa and to improve the quality of this service through increased investments and reform of utilities. For this purpose WUP aims to bring together all utilities, other service providers, stakeholders and support agencies in the water supply and sanitation sector in Africa.

WBI is the learning arm of the World Bank, and provides knowledge services and learning activities that support the Bank's mission to reduce poverty and improve living standards in the developing world. Among its many activities, WBI supports a global training initiative for media institutions and journalists to help build their capacity to understand and explain to their audiences sustainable development issues in their countries, as well as specific events designed to address cutting-edge issues, in the present case issues related to water policy.

ZAMCOM is an in-service training institution, which has been upgrading the technical skills of media practitioners in the print media as well as in radio and television since 1980. It provides training for media practitioners in the entire SADC region.

Financing sponsors included WUP, WBI, and the Governments of The Netherlands (which sponsored the participants to attend the Second World Water Forum in The Hague, March 17-22, 2000) and of the United Kingdom through the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF).


4. The overall objective of the program was to increase press coverage related to water issues in Africa and to improve the quality and objectivity of this coverage, by:

- raising the level of reporting on water issues by African journalists, with the goal of "making water everybody’s business";
- helping journalists clarify the choices facing policymakers charged with managing the environment and development - including water - in their countries;
- encouraging the delivery of positive messages, with an emphasis on constructive action and solutions on issues, to counter the tendency toward "negative journalism"; and
- providing the participants with ways to obtain new, timely and relevant information on water issues.

The Knowledge Program

5. The program was initially designed as a workshop, to be followed - subject to the participants’ interest - by an electronic discussion forum, and by the sponsoring of a very few (because of funding limitations) of the journalists to the Second World Water Forum in The Hague in March 2000. It turned out that the participants’ interest was very high, and that the Government of the Netherlands and WBI were able to provide funding for all workshop participants. This report therefore describes the three components of the program:

- Workshop "Making Water Everybody’s Business", Durban, South Africa, February 17-20, 2000
- E-mail and Internet-Based Discussion Group, February 22 - March 12, 2000
- Participation in the Second World Water Forum, The Hague, The Netherlands, March 17-22, 2000

Workshop (Durban, South Africa, February 17-20, 2000)

6. The workshop lasted three and half days, including a half-day field trip. The working language of the workshop was English. The workshop, which was highly interactive, addressed the following themes:

Water in Africa: Presentations and discussions on the place of water among environmental issues, and the water crisis; water in the economy (economic development, poverty and health; what is unique to Africa, what are the issues that it shares with the rest of the world, which countries are changing the way they manage their water resources and provide water services?

Main water sector issues: Presentations and discussions on issues such as: the roles of the State, of the private sector and of civil society; paying for water; changing institutions and involving the private sector; providing services to the poor.

Practical sessions: Combination of short presentations, exercises and role-plays, on the following themes: mapping a story; finding information on water issues; the editorial market place; designing radio programs.

Workshop Participants and Resource Persons

7. Thirty-two participants from nine African countries (Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) attended the workshop. Participants were selected by Zamcom based on their expectations of the participants’ future contribution to reporting on water issues, and of the benefits they could derive from the workshop. Because of time and logistical constraints, the organizers could not mobilize a fully balanced representation across countries, and the largets group of participants originated from Zambia.

8. Resources persons were provided by the Bank (staff from the Africa Region, the Water and Sanitation Program, the Private Sector Development Department and WBI), the Water Utility Partnership, UMGENI Water Services, ZAMCOM, Radio France Internationale and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

E-Mail discussion group (February 22 - March 12, 2000)

9. Immediately after the workshop, WBI facilitated an E-mail based discussion among the journalists. In spite of the difficulties in electronic access, about three quarters of the participants participated actively to share stories and seek peer support in finding information. The purpose of the discussion group - to help the participants retain a connection between themselves, maintain a level of enthusiasm and help generate a few stories - was achieved.

Second World Water Forum, The Hague, March 17-22, 2000

10. The Forum was the largest international conference focusing on water policy ever organized, with over 4,500 registered participants including 110 Ministers. The Forum produced a series of "visions" for sustainable water management in the 21st century as well as an framework for action. Details are on the Forum’s web site at: http://www.worldwaterforum.org/

11. Thanks to the Dutch Government’s and WBI’s sponsorship, all participants attended the Forum, and produced daily reports through their respective press agencies or free lance. The participants’ group also spearheaded a meeting of many the journalists present at The Hague to share views and discuss follow-up actions to the Forum (about 300 journalists, out of 600 in the Forum, attended the meeting).

Outcomes and Evaluation

12. As confirmed in the workshop evaluation and follow-up discussions with the participants, the participants learned about the main issues in the water sector, formed a peer group, and produced print, radio and TV reports, mostly in their respective national press.

13. Immediate feedback was elicited from the participants through a participatory process (the participants were organized into 5 discussion groups to share their experience of the workshop) and also through individual questionnaires. The results (for groups and individuals) are in Annex and show that the workshop was very well received. Practically all participants rated the question "how productive to you was your participation in the workshop" 5 or 6 on a 1-6 scale.

14. A meeting was held in The Hague (during the Forum) with the workshop participants to get their feed-back on the E-mail discussion group and on their participation in the Forum. The feed-back was very positive, with about three quarters of the participants having been involved in the E-mail exchanges, an unusually high proportion for this type of activity. The participants were also very involved reporting on their participation in the Forum; their actual output is summarized in Annex.

Next Steps

15. During the workshop and again during the meeting with the participants at The Hague Water Forum, a substantial majority of people expressed the desire to continue with some learning activities using the email/internet discussion format as they have been using since the Durban Workshop. In the context of the WUP-WBI partnership, plans are being made to build capacity to reply quickly to enquiries from journalists on water policy issues. WUP also plans to carry-out a similar program for French-speaking journalists, integrating the experience gained through the present program.


- Workshop program

- Summary of post-workshop outcomes

- Workshop evaluation


"…many of us had the feeling that water cannot make good stories
to be sold to the editor. But after the workshop many of us realized
that water is really a big issue worldwide."

(Participant, Durban workshop)

The major outcome of the learning program has been comparatively prolific publication and airing of articles and stories with a water focus. One participant has remarked: "…the stories (after the Durban Workshop) were excellent because people in various parts of Africa heard a lot and read a lot about water…. before the Durban workshop and the Hague Water Forum, little was known in the continent about water."

On average, each journalist has had published or aired at least 10 water stories since the Durban workshops (i.e. in a 6 week period) i.e. more than 250 stories. Of possibly even greater consequence is the fact that many journalists have been able to secure regular airtime or news slots for the reporting of water stories. One journalist, signing off from the discussion wrote: "My editor is on my neck for a story".

News organizations which have published/aired stories in the last six weeks include the following:

News Distribution Services:

MISANET (Media Institute of Southern Africa) Based in Windhoek, Namibia, the service is received in over 20 media organizations in Southern, Central, Eastern and Western Africa Pan African News Agency; Reuters; Featureline Africa;


Radio France International; Kenya’s Nation FM Radio Station; BBC Africa Service; BBC World Service in London; Voice of America; Deutsche Welle; Radio Uganda/UMWA; Radio Phoenix, Zambia; Milawi Broadcasting Corporation; Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation; South Africa Broadcasting Corporation; Channel, Africa (Zambia);


Milawi Broadcasting Corporation; Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation;

South Africa Broadcasting Corporation; Channel, Africa (Zambia);


The New Vision, Uganda; Sunday Vision, Uganda; The Zambia Monitor; Business Africa News; Swaziland Today; Africa Recovery (UN Magazine).

Articles published included the following headlines:

‘Workshop on Water Inspires Journalists’
‘Saviye unveils Zambia’s water vision’
‘Rights group reject water vision’
‘Ministers adopt water master plan’
‘Water: Serious Issues for Africa and the World’
‘Second World Water Forum Opens with Naked Drama’
‘Africa Water Vision Faces Critical Appraisal’
‘Discussions on Water for African Cities Raise Serious Issues’
‘Water Utilities Partnership Vision for the 2!st Century’
‘Wholesale Privatisation of Water Utilities Criticised’
‘Youthful Voices Heard at the Second World Water Forum


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