Benin belongs to the group of Least Developed Countries (LDC) with a low per capita GDP. Its economy is predominantly dependant on subsistence farming (extensive cotton production) and regional trade. Benin is drained by a dense hydrographical network made up of seasonal flow rivers. The water resources of the country are estimated at about 15 bill. m3/year, including approximately 2 bill. and 13 bill. m3 of groundwater and surface water respectively, unequally distributed in space and time.
Benin has been at a stage where the catchments and water uses are not controlled and do not fall under any enforced regulation. The country currently uses less than 3% of its renewable water resources.
Forecasts done in 2000 show that Benin only needs about 40% of its renewable water resources to meet its development needs by 2025 without the needs of industrial sector. These forecasts however have not taken into account the impacts of climate change on water resources and the increasingly pressing needs for the populations to adapt.
From an institutional perspective, the water sector in Benin is characterized by a multiple decision-making centers, a sector-based management framework and a lack of collaboration and dialogue between stakeholders.
Management is thus sector-based, fragmented and compartmentalized, with no cross-sectoral coordination, therefore resulting in high economic, social and ecological costs.
The February 1998 Kouhounou declaration was a starting point of the IWRM planning process in Benin. Since then the government has reaffirmed its willingness to operate a transition towards IWRM approach through various reforms and programmes established.
A baseline studies (water situation analysis and complementary thematic studies) were done followed by the drafting of the national IWRM action plan. The Ministry in charge of water set up a Drafting Committee made up of national experts coming from relevant ministries, civil society, universities, private sector and NGOs all constituted important part in the process.
The GWP re-affirmed its support to the IWRM planning process in the country under a Partnership for Africa’s Water Development programme (PAWDII). Active and constant advocacy actions were conducted by CWP Benin targeting the main sectoral ministries involved in water management and its uses (water, environment, agriculture, transport, decentralization, tourism, etc.) and other governmental institutions.
The GWP Toolbox assisted in formulating key areas for water policy reform.
A draft water law which considers the different reforms carried out in the sector in the context of decentralization validated by stakeholders in April 2005 and was submitted to Parliament in July 2007, for its adoption.
This new water law is the only water-specific regulation and the IWRM process has also enabled Benin to develop a national water policy validated by key stakeholders in January 2008 and adopted by the Government in July 2009.
Advocacy for strengthening political will for supporting the process must be seen as a transversal and on-going action throughout the whole IWRM process.
Involvement of stakeholders with proven experience and competence is capital, if the quality and credibility of the results are to be guaranteed. Defining the role(s) of key stakeholders is essential for smooth implementation of process.
It is necessary to reorganize the institutional framework following the IWRM principles. This is due to the fact that relative abundance of water resources should not overlook the need for planning and rational management of these resources, for supporting national development needs.
Involvement of key players in the planning process allows easy implementation of the plan by sectoral stakeholders as well as its timely adoption by the Government. The involvement different ministries such as Ministry of Finance and Economy, Ministry of Planning and Development helped to create linkages between the national IWRM action plan and the Strategic Document for Growth and Poverty Alleviation in Benin.
In addition, the involvement of multi-field experts adds value to the quality of data analysis, and brings various dimensions to the draft report.
Capacity building activities (information, sensitization, communication, and training) that were carried out by CWP Benin allowed stakeholders to better understand water-related problems and IWRM principles. It became necessary to sensitize and convince each new official of the relevance of the process. For that purpose, CWP Benin developed a capacity building and communication strategy, involving the media.