9th SADC RBOs/SWIs Workshop: Investments key for inclusive and collaborative transboundary water financing and industrial development

Financing and cooperation around transboundary water resources are critical for poverty alleviation, economic growth, and sustainable industrial development in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region. This was the main outcome of the 9th SADC River Basin Organisations/ Shared Watercourse Institutions (RBOs/SWIs) Workshop held virtually on 22-23 September 2021, under the theme Promoting Inclusive and Collaborative Transboundary Water Financing for Sustainable Industrial Development”.

The event was co-convened by the SADC Secretariat  and the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM), with support from Global Water Partnership Southern Africa (GWPSA), with financial support from  the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Resilient Waters Program, and the SADC-GIZ Transboundary Water Management in SADC (GIZ-TWM) Programme.

Lack of financing for water resources a key challenge in SADC

“Poverty remains a huge, complex challenge in the SADC region and is exacerbated by hunger, malnutrition, gender inequalities, exploitation, marginalisation, high morbidity, HIV and AIDS, climate change and variability extremes such as floods and droughts, and the current covid-19 pandemic,” said Honourable Mike Mposha, Zambia’s Minister of Water Development and Sanitation, during the event proceedings.

“Lack of inclusive financing arrangements for transboundary water resources development and management at the shared watercourse and regional levels continues to be a hindrance in SADC’s efforts to alleviate poverty, which is a key priority in the SADC’s agenda,” added Hon. Mposha.

The Workshop provided a platform for close to 250 participants, who include representatives of RBOs/SWIs, SADC Member States, regional institutions, international development partners, water and other related key sectors (energy, food security, trade, etc) to share experiences, lessons, and insights on financing transboundary water resources development and management. Funding agencies, such as the African Development Bank( AfDB), the World Bank, the German Development Bank (KfW), who are funders of the SADC Regional Fund for Water Infrastructure and Basic Sanitation and the SADC-GIZ Transboundary Water Management in SADC (GIZ-TWM) Programme – offered perspectives into the various financing opportunities for water resources management.

 Participants at the 9th SADC RBOs/SWIs Workshop

Water development central to economic development 

Central to discussions at the Workshop were the  economic linkages created by water to other key growth sectors in SADC.

“Water is catalytic in supporting the regional value chains towards enhancing industrialisation and food security in the regionally integrating SADC community, “said Dr. Patrice Kabeya, Senior Programme Officer- Water Division in the SADC Directorate for Infrastructure and Services. “It plays a critical role in driving agriculture value chains, mineral beneficiation value chains, and tourism value chains”.

Dr. Kabeya underscored the need to ensure the viability and sustainability of regional value chains – as a means of upscaling productive capacities for inclusive and sustainable industrial development.

Accelerated Water Financing in the Transboundary Water Arena 

In presenting his Keynote speech, Mr. Cecil Nundwe - Principal Water Resources Management Officer African Development Bank (AfDB), commended international cooperating partners (ICPs) for financing transboundary water resources management and transboundary water infrastructure development as well as funding the development of RBOs/ SWIs.

“The financing of transboundary water resources management and transboundary water infrastructure development has been lagging behind for the past 50 years,” said Mr. Nundwe.

“There has been significant financial support from ICPs in funding various RBOs/SWIs activities which include the creation of these basin institutions, water resources management, water infrastructure development, and the creation of information sharing systems within the basins.” He urged riparian states to take ownership of basin initiatives and commit financial resources towards the operation and maintenance of their basins.

9th SADC RBOs/SWIs Workshop Session Breakdown

“The workshop was delivered through several sessions, consisting of different styles, which include plenary, panel discussions, parallel, and interactive sessions with the funders,” said Ms. Leonissah Munjoma, acting Executive Secretary of ZAMCOM. The main outcomes of the sessions are outlined below.

Session 3: Unpacking the 9th SADC RBOs/SWIs theme through the Background paper

Dr. Michael Tumbare, from the University of Zimbabwe, presented the background paper. Participants concurred on the need to accelerate inclusive infrastructure development as a way of increasing preparedness and resilience to the now frequent extreme weather events (floods and droughts), disease outbreaks affecting both humans and livestock, all exacerbated by climate change and climate variability.

Session 4: Collaborative planning for joint financing of sustainable transboundary RBOs/SWIs

River basin organisations shared experiences on collaborative planning and joint financing, with a particular focus on illustrating how collaboration contributed to addressing challenges. Mr. Lenka Thamae, Executive Secretary for the Orange-Senqu River Commission (ORASECOM), presented the case of the Lesotho-Botswana Water Transfer (L-BWT) Scheme as an example of good neighbourliness and the important role that RBOs play in catalysing water investment.

“Through the L-BWT Scheme, water will be supplied by Lesotho to Botswana for livelihoods and economic activities,” said Mr. Thamae. The project will also increase climate resilience and long-term security of water supply for communities in Botswana, Lesotho, and South Africa.

Parallel Session 5: Enhancing transboundary groundwater investments for resilient water services and livelihoods

The challenges facing Transboundary Aquifer (TBA) Management within the SADC region are:

  • lack of sufficient capacity to manage groundwater resources effectively;
  • lack of policy guidance and national legislation on transboundary aquifers; and
  • lack of mechanisms for the exchange of real-time quality data and information across institutions and between shared watercourse Member States.

It is therefore imperative to improve coordination, knowledge, and financing of groundwater management and critical for member states to support the financing of groundwater issues. There is a need to develop baseline data for TBAs and build resilience hubs to improve livelihoods.

Engineer James Sauramba, Executive Director for the SADC Ground Water Management Institute shared insights on Transboundary Aquifer (TBA) Management in the SADC region.

“Out of the 30 TBAs in the SADC region, work having been conducted in only 5 TBAs with significant progress for cooperation frameworks found in 2 TBAs; the Stampriet Transboundary Aquifer System (STAS) of the Orange Senqu River Basin and Ramotswa TBA (RTBA) of the Limpopo River Basin, ” he said. He reiterated the need for an enabling environment for Transboundary Aquifer (TBA) management as well as replication of the STAS model.

Session 6: Watering priority regional value chains for accelerated industrial development

Stakeholders such as the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the Climate Resilient Infrastructure Development Facility (CRIDF) shared their experiences on value chains as a way to improve systemic problem-solving approach in the water sector.

Participants deliberated on the key role that RBOs play in Regional Value Chains (RVCs) through Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) initiatives, advocacy and education, flood control and early warning systems, developing investment strategies with key value chain players, and regional integration discussions such as the development of corridors.

Parallel Session 7: Inclusive and integrated infrastructure development through Water - Health -Energy - Food (WHEF) Nexus Approaches

Mr. Kidanemariam Jembere, Technical Advisor at GWPSA, took participants through the role played by SADC’s Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus Approach in enhancing investment.

“The SADC-EU WEF Nexus Project, now in its second phase, calls for high-level political support, continuous multisector stakeholder dialogues, and building on existing structures, as well as capacity for analysis to support decisions on WEF Nexus, are critical,” said Mr. Jembere.

 The participants concluded that there is a need to incorporate health in the WEF Nexus Approach, which in turn has to be incorporated in the management of water resources and improve livelihoods.

During the session, Engineer Leonard Magara, Chief engineer at the Climate Resilient Infrastructure Development Facility (CRIDF), presented the key issues & lessons from the Water-Health-Energy-Food-Ecosystems (WHEFE) - Livelihoods Projects: Addressing Transboundary Challenges: Save River Basin Programme.

“The Save River Basin is characterised by uneven infrastructure, uneven access to water resources, exacerbated by environmental degradation, climate change, and low to nil climate and economic resilience which has led to poverty and unsustainable livelihoods,” said Eng. Magara. “The project is set to provide water infrastructure to meet development objectives and result in healthy people, environment, and economy as well as equitable access to water for basic needs, socio-economic development, vital ecosystems, and sustained ecosystem services.”

In presenting the WHEFE Nexus Approach as part of Strategic Plan for the Zambezi Watercourse (ZSP), Mr. Hastings Chibuye, Programme Manager at ZAMCOM, said the WHEFE Nexus in the Zambezi basin was motivated by persistent poverty, infrastructure deficit, disaster risk, environmental degradation, and competing water uses.

“The NEXUS Approach in the basin involves clear watercourse goals and interests, development of scenarios, evidence (data and information, development options), resource base (water, energy capital, labour, and land). Key to the successful implementation of the Nexus Approach are consultations through stakeholder dialogues,” he said.

Parallel Session 8: Multi-Sectoral Stakeholder Consultative Inclusiveness

Active involvement of stakeholders in decision making, capacity building, and gender mainstreaming is critical within RBOS.

Mr. Silvanus Uunona, Programme Manager at Cuvelai Watercourse Commission (CUVECOM), presented insights on approaches and lessons learnt and take away points on the consultative platforms in the Cuvelai River Basin where the basin management approach (BMA) was used as a means of increasing stakeholder participation.

“Basin Management Institutions are key in managing water along the catchment areas, engaging the local communities more actively and providing a platform for addressing water-related issues in the basin,” said Uunona.

The workshop was preceded by a Gender Session on 21 September 2021. Proceedings and more information on the 9th SADC RBOS workshop can be found on the ZAMCOM website.

Photo credit:  Adobe Stock, GWPSA