Water security project seeks inputs to guide next steps

Fishermen on the Oubangui River in the early morning
Copyright: William Daniels /Panos

Speed read

  • A four-year project aims to promote water security in three African nations
  • Researchers are seeking inputs from individuals to help address challenges
  • An expert says that having many counties could hamper coordination in Kenya

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[NAIROBI] The initial findings of a project that promotes sustainable development of two river basins in Africa show a need to engage more individuals, communities and experts to help achieve water security.

At a forum in Kenya last month (18 March) to discuss the initial findings of the four-year project called WISE-UP to Climate, participants highlighted that water security is vital for growth, poverty reduction, biodiversity conservation and climate change resilience and adaptation.

“By asking stakeholders to explain their interests, WISE-UP can develop metrics of river basin performance.”

Anthony Hurford, University of Manchester

WISE-UP to Climate,  which started in 2013, seeks to promote climate change adaptation and sustainable development in the Tana river basin in Kenya and the Volta basin in Burkina Faso and Ghana by addressing water security challenges.

The project is being implemented by institutions such as the Ghana Water Research Institute-Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the University of Nairobi-based African Collaborative Centre for Earth System Sciences (ACCESS), the UK-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the University of Manchester, and the Switzerland-headquartered International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). According to the IUCN, WISE-UP to Climate means “water infrastructure solutions from ecosystem services underpinning climate resilient policies and programmes”. 

James Dalton, the IUCN coordinator of global water initiatives, says the project funded by the International Climate Initiative of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, will link ecosystem services more directly into water infrastructure development in the Tana and Volta river basins.

Dalton notes that initial results from the project are now being shared to seek feedback and help guide the next steps. “The results presented during these sessions are a result of an iterative process with basin stakeholders, learning from them about the key issues and challenges faced in these two basins,” he adds.

Anthony Hurford, a research associate at the University of Manchester, presented preliminary results from a system model for the Tana River, focusing on a set of performance metrics.

Hurford says a range of built and natural infrastructure investments can be generated, each of which provides a different balance of benefits. Decision-makers can select from the best available options based on their preferences and political context.

“By asking stakeholders to explain their interests, WISE-UP can develop metrics of river basin performance which show how stakeholder interests might be positively or negatively affected by different investment options,” Hurford explains, noting that the metrics could include indicators such as how much water is likely to be available in the future for irrigation.

According to Naomi Oates, a research officer at the ODI’s Water Policy Programme, the analysis seeks to share evidence regarding the institutional and political contexts in which infrastructure investment decisions are made.

Martin Marani, a geography and environmental studies lecturer at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, says that the creation of additional counties in Kenya has increased the number of players in water governance and decision-making.

“This increases diversity of interests and makes the achievement of a coordinated approach to decision-making more difficult,” Marani tells SciDev.Net.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.