West Africa: Roadmaps for Water Management in West Africa (#396)

Although the West African Sub-region is well advanced in IWRM, some countries still need more support. A strategy was developed to help countries that had formally requested IWRM planning assistance. The lesson learnt is that participatory processes take much longer than non-participatory ones, nonetheless, they are still favourable since they provide a platform for discussion and a place to exchange ideas. 


The West African Sub-region is well advanced in IWRM through a process that was initiated in 1998 (West African Conference on Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in Ouagadougou) although some countries are lagging behind and thus are in need for support. 

Building on outcomes of “UNEP-2005 IWRM Target”, key international and regional partners agreed on a project that will bring West African countries to the implementation of better water resources management. The seven West African countries were: Côte d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo. 

The specific focus areas identified under the project included National IWRM Roadmap in the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone, IWRM Plans for Côte d’Ivoire. While in Liberia and Togo, regional guidelines on development of IWRM Roadmaps and Plans as well as documentation of best practices and case studies identified.

Action taken

The strategy was aimed to help specifically countries that had formally requested IWRM planning assistance and to use the experiences as a way of demonstrating possible IWRM development in neighboring states.

Currently, draft IWRM roadmaps have been finalised, presented and validated by the Gambia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau as documented in the full report.

The IWRM roadmap for Guinea Conakry has been delayed due to political unrest but work to develop an IWRM roadmap has been resumed since mid mid November 2010. Liberia has presented its consolidated National IWRM Policy and implementation plan. Ivory Coast is in the final stage in preparing a draft plan for Water Resources Management but has still some way to go before being able to start an IWRM. Togo is currently aiming and developing a draft IWRM plan which is expected to happen with the assistance of national consultants who have been involved in the previous project.

The most important outcome of the project was that, it assisted the Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone in setting up a stage to develop IWRM roadmap. It further supported the development of IWRM plans in Côte d’Ivoire, Togo and Liberia which had already reached the roadmap stage.

This played a crucial role for the Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone to successfully develop and validate their IWRM roadmap.

Lessons learned

  • Participatory processes take much longer than non-participatory ones. This must be taken into account when the roadmap process is designed. This kind of participatory process also provides a place for all other stakeholders to bring to the table their concerns and ideas about water planning, which may otherwise ignored.
  • The developed IWRM questionnaires proved to be very instrumental in assessing the National progress on IWRM, identifying elements for specific program support, capacity needs assessment and identification of foreseen actions needed for the project implementation.
  • The water sector reform was seen as a pre-requisite in the IWRM roadmap elaboration process. It is thus important to have flexibility to take into account the needs and request from the country while drafting the roadmap.
  • By seeking synergy with ongoing process (the elaboration of the Master Plan for water and sanitation in Guinea Bissau) an opportunity to implement identified actions is very high.