Nigeria: Multi-stakeholder participation in the management of water resources, Komadugu Yobe Basin, upstream of Lake Chad (#429)

Due to increased agricultural irrigation and large scale dam projects, and inappropriate land and water management practices, the water inflow to the Komadugu Yobe Basin has dramatically been reduced. Action has been taken to establish a legal and policy enabling environment, as well as to increase knowledge among the local communities to establish more sustainable behaviour. The main lesson learnt was that although a multi-stakeholder participatory approach is slow, it helped to mobilise partnership.

The Komadugu Yobe Basin (KYB) covers a total area of 148,000 km2 divided between north-east Nigeria and south-east Niger with 95% of the basin’s water in Nigeria. The basin is drained by two main river sub-systems: the Komadugu Yobe and the Komadugu Gana, with the Yobe River flowing into Lake Chad.

KYB is a sub-catchment of the larger Lake Chad Basin, representing approximately 35% of the Lake Chad Basin, which is shared by six Nigerian states and four other countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad and Niger).

The water flow in the Komadugu Yobe has fallen by 35%, due to the combined effects of the two large dams built in the 1970s and abstraction of water for large-scale irrigation systems.

The Komadugu Gana tributary, for instance no longer reaches the Yobe River, which in turn only contributes about 1-2% of the total water inflow to Lake Chad. Yet the contribution used to be about 10% two decades ago, and due to such external changes, Lake Chad has shrunk dramatically over the last 40 years.
In addition, inappropriate land and water management practices in the basin have changed the seasonal flow to a perennial flow regime. This has resulted in the invasion of reeds and weeds such as Typha in some of the river reaches. These block streams and flooding of channels causing changes in the wetland ecosystems that communities have historically relied upon to deliver regular water services.

With the exception of the year 2001, natural flooding of the Yobe River floodplains has been very limited in recent years and irregular and low flows in the Yobe River have affected the small and large scale irrigation schemes along the rivers with many of them now abandoned. Fishing, farming and herding livelihoods have been adversely affected and the scarcity of water has led to conflict over the available resources.

The basin has also suffered from fragmented regulation and conflicting responsibilities among institutions, a lack of coordination for hydro agricultural developments, inequitable access to water resources, non-optimal utilization of multipurpose dams, and growing tensions and risk of conflicts among water users.

In other words, the river basin seemed locked in a state of institutional paralysis from which a coordinated response to the issues could not be mounted.

Action taken

Working with the Federal Ministry of Water Affairs and the Nigeria Conservation Foundation, WANI led development of a comprehensive knowledge base for the basin. WANI also established a legal and policy enabling environment through which basin-wide coordination mechanisms can be implemented.

The government and civil society agreed a Water Charter for the Basin. In conjunction with these measures, field interventions to pilot-test improved water management that have positive impacts on local livelihoods were implemented.

The aim was to demonstrate efficient and sustainable water utilization techniques and approaches. These would support the development of a catchment management plan that form the structure and mechanism to implement an integrated and basin-wide water resources management initiative.

All these actions have contributed to achieving equity of allocation, efficiency of use and overall sustainable development in the basin.

Lessons learned

  • Regular consultation and transboundary exchange of information on activities is crucial for successful sustainable ecosystem management at basin-level in the KYB, which flows through six Nigerian states. Transboundary cooperation is a key in achieving proper water resources management. 
  • Despite the fact that the multi-stakeholder participatory approach was slow, expensive and time-consuming, it helped mobilize partnership and confidence with Ministries and Government.
  • There was limited communication between the research institutions and public policy-managers and therefore work was needed to improve the exchange of information and capacity-building. Public participation has generated tangible benefits, fostering cooperation in the process of developing and implementing strategic actions.
  • Developing disaster risk management planning should be integral to the overall watershed management planning and not just as an emergency response (as demonstrated by Tropical Storm Stan). This ensures that measures to combat risks such as climate change are part of integrated water resource planning for the micro-watershed.