Inclusive and integrative investment projects key to development in the SADC region

Integrative and inclusive investment project planning at the transboundary and regional levels is critical in the response to challenges and catalysing development in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. This was one of the key issues raised at the transboundary water management session convened by the Lesotho ICM project and Partners at the Stockholm World Water Week (WWW) on 30 August in Stockholm, Sweden.

Through interactive discussions, stakeholders from GWPSA, Lesotho ICM Coordination Unit (CU), SADC Secretariat, AU, UNCCD, ZAMCOM, ORASECOM, OKACOM, and SADC GMI discussed the integrative and inclusive water resources management, development, and utilization approaches being implemented in the region to catalyze regional development and to attract more investment into the sector.

Lesotho ICM: Incorporating the ecosystem services approach into integrated catchment management planning

Mrs Migwi Matsolo from the Lesotho ICM CU shared how the ReNOKA "We are a river" program is implementing best practices to address the land degradation in the country's wetlands through the Integrated Catchment Management Project in Lesotho (Lesotho ICM).

"Lesotho's catchments are vital for livelihoods, the economy, and the environment. However, unsustainable land use has caused severe catchment degradation, putting pressure on land and water resources as well as threatening the ecosystem services needed by the communities within the river basin," said Mrs Matsolo. "These challenges have been exacerbated by increased rainfall variability and extreme climatic events such as droughts, floods and heatwaves."

Mrs Migwi Matsolo from the Lesotho shares insights on the Lesotho ICM project

Mrs Migwi Matsolo from the Lesotho shares insights on the Lesotho ICM project

Without healthy catchments and wetlands, the future of Lesotho and its neighboring countries may be bleak, given that Lesotho's river catchments are solely responsible for 22% of GDP and 30% of employment. The country supplies water to over twelve million people in South Africa which yields USD 56 million (LSL 1 billion) in annual revenue.

"The integrated catchment management approach is being implemented in Lesotho as
a multi-stakeholder process to promote the integrated, sustainable, and risk-informed development and management of water, land, and related resources in Lesotho's catchment areas," she added. The project is set to bring change in catchment management, policy and governance, finance and investment, skills and knowledge, awareness and behavioral change and data and monitoring.

OKACOM: Sustainable funding in the CORB – The CORB Fund

Mr Ramoeli Phera, Executive Secretary for the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM), shared on enhancing resilience in transboundary water management in the SADC Region, focusing on the sustainable funding model using a case study of the Cubango-Okavango River Basin (CORB ) fund.

"The CORB Fund is a fully independent hybrid fund that aims to enhance livelihoods, improve ecosystem resilience and provide equitable benefits to the riparian states of Angola, Botswana and Namibia, in their shared river basin", said Ramoeli. "The Fund will respond to the competing demands, risks and threats to the river basin and its water resources, by financing interventions that create ownership, enhance lives, and protect nature."

OKACOM added that the Fund is set to support interventions designed to conserve and restore biodiversity and ecosystem functions, enhance livelihoods equitably, and ensure the environmentally sound and socially responsible development of the infrastructure and natural resources of the Cubango-Okavango River Basin.

Mr Ramoeli Phera, sharing a case study of the CORB Fund

Mr Ramoeli Phera, sharing a case study of the CORB Fund

The lessons learned from the establishment of the fund were also shared and these include the prolonged time needed for comprehensive consultations with stakeholders and beneficiaries, full commitment and engagement by member states, the need for robust governance structures, clear, compelling, and comprehensive value propositions , and innovative approaches for a successful competitive landscape.

ZAMCOM: Mobilizing Investments to Enhance Resilience Building Resilience to Economic and Climatic Shocks through the PIDACC Zambezi

Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM) focused on Mobilizing Investments to Enhance Resilience Building Resilience to Economic and Climatic Shocks, narrowing in on the Program for Integrated Development and Adaptation to Climate Change in the Zambezi Watercourse, (PIDACC Zambezi).

Said Mr Felix Ngamlagosi, Executive Secretary for ZAMCOM, "PIDACC Zambezi is an investment program which was developed through the operationalization of the Zambezi Strategic Plan (ZSP) to drive the implementation of investment projects at both the national and regional levels as well as increase climate -smart resilience through addressing challenges that impact livelihoods and development in the Zambezi Watercourse.”

Through the investment program, ZAMCOM intends to build strong communities that are resilient to climatic and economic shocks through promoting inclusive transformative investments, job-creation and ecosystem-based solutions focusing on the hotspots. The PIDACC Zambezi program has been endorsed by the Zambezi Watercourse Commission Council of Ministers and six out of the basin's eight member states.

UNCCD: Great Green Wall initiative (GGWI)

The Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI) is a flagship project of the African Union aimed at tackling the triple challenges of desertification, climate change and loss of biodiversity through a comprehensive belt of green projects, initially aimed at the Sahel region. The project, supported by the EU, FAO and the GM-UNCCD targets to restore one hundred million hectares of currently degraded land; sequester 250 million tons of carbon and create ten million green jobs by 2030 across the Sahel region.

Ms Cathrine Mutambirwa, Program Coordinator LDN and Land Restoration at Global Mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (GM-UNCCD), gave a statistical perspective of the SADC region's land use and land use changes and provided the next steps for the region. These include creating a base map of projects and programs under implementation from 2019, mobilizing support to prepare project proposals and developing GGWI National Action and Investment Plans (NAPs). Further steps include developing a harmonized results framework across the six investment pillars to help track the progress of GGWI SADC implementation and establishing multi-stakeholder national coalitions to implement, monitor and evaluate the progress made on the GGWI SADC investment pillars.

Lesotho ICM: Lesotho's progress and ReNOKA's initiatives (methodologies & approaches in operationalizing GGWI).

Dr Koetlisi Koetlisi GWPSA's Project Manager for the Lesotho ICM summed up the linkages between the ReNOKA initiatives and the GGWI.

"The GGWI is ushering in a new era of sustainability and economic growth and is expanding to southern Africa where land degradation and drought are on the rise", he said. the Kingdom of Lesotho adopted the remote sensing methodologies used for land monitoring database development for the SADC and modified during the development of Lesotho 2017 Land cover and ReNOKA 2017-2021 Land cover development.”

The above methodologies are relevant in ecosystem services as they aid in the stocktaking and monitoring of sustainable management of scarce resources.

SADC GMI's Technical Advisor, Kevin Pietersen, highlighted that the SADC region does not yet suffer groundwater depletion as has occurred in major aquifer basins worldwide, meaning that there is still an opportunity for groundwater irrigation development to contribute to food security as most SADC countries' current groundwater use remains below 5% of the national sustainable yield. Groundwater has the potential to be a foundational resource to support irrigated agriculture and drought resilience across the region, as it has in many other global regions.

Besides mapping, establishing baseline data and monitoring frameworks for transboundary aquifer systems, SADC GMI is also trying to understand the impacts on the groundwater-dependent ecosystem and the investment opportunities for agribusiness through aquifer utilization and impact monitoring through pilot projects. However, a key consideration with groundwater pumping is the energy consumption, potential energy sources include solar, diesel, and the electricity grid.

The GEF BUPUSA Project Coordinator, Mr Elisha Madamombe, reflected on how all the regional experiences outlined during the session were useful for informing the trajectory that the Buzi, Pungwe and Save basins shared by Mozambique and Zimbabwe would take on their roadmap to establishing a tri- basin River Basin Organisation. The issues of integrated catchment management, strategic planning, resource mobilization and groundwater development were all key in the BUPUSA basins.

Some of the physical and virtual participants at the Lesotho ICM session

Some of the physical and virtual participants at the Lesotho ICM session

Further to the above discussions, the session highlighted that the SADC region already has a number of flagship initiatives which can be replicated and scaled and can define the elements of the Water Pillar for the Great Green Wall initiative. A synthesis of the key threads that came from the above presentations and subsequent discussions and that could frame the elements of the Great Green Wall initiative's Water Pillar are:

  • Investments in ecosystem protection are critical and lessons from ReNOKA show clear returns on such investments, ie, the benefits for the protection of the headwaters of the Orang-Senqu basin are realized across the entire basin.
  • Innovative financing mechanisms are critical for sustainability and scale . The CORB Fund is a great example of how River Basins can plan for mobilizing long-term funding to realize tangible benefits.
  • Integrative and inclusive investment projects planned at the transboundary and regional levels are a good way forward in terms of responding to challenges in the region and leaving no one behind. The PIDACC Zambezi Investment Program was a clear illustration of this.
  • Opportunities for groundwater development and conjunctive surface and groundwater management are still good in the region because even though there is a consensus that groundwater depletion has occurred in major aquifer basins worldwide, this is not the case in SADC, and there is an opportunity for groundwater irrigation development to contribute to food security and for groundwater to be a foundational resource to support irrigated agriculture and drought resilience across the region, as it has in many other global regions.

Scaling up and value addition through the pillars of the Great Green Wall Initiative will ensure a coordinated approach.

Further to this participatory session, the Lesotho ICM project's online exhibition at the WWW showcased how ReNOKA is supporting and empowering the communities in the river basin to implement and maintain sustainable measures that will restore and protect the ecology of the catchments. It showcased the measures that are being taken to manage the degradation and the enabling financial mechanisms as well as approaches and methodologies promoting Integrated Catchment Management through policy harmonization approaches, strong stakeholder engagement, gender equality and social inclusion including women and youth empowerment, innovative financial mechanisms , enhanced learning opportunities, and moving from nexus theory to nexus action.

The Global Water Partnership Southern Africa (GWPSA) is supporting the implementation of the "Support to Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) Project" in Lesotho and the SADC Region. GWPSA is supporting the project in Lesotho to curate knowledge and lessons on ICM from the SADC region, Africa and internationally and incorporate such knowledge into activities implemented in Lesotho. GWPSA support for the ICM project implementation plays a critical role in linking local ICM interventions to regional aspirations and ensuring that relevant stakeholders at various levels are engaged and mobilized to address challenges to water security in the region.

The "Support to Integrated Catchment Management (ICM)" Project in Lesotho is co-financed by the EU and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

Photo credit ReNOKA Project/GIZ