07.11.2019 - Natural Sciences Sector

Investing in Water Resources Management to adapt African communities to climate change

UNESCO WWAP, in collaboration with the UNESCO National Office to Ghana, UNECA, UNESCO IHP Africa, ICLEI and AGWA, organized a side event at the Climate Chance Summit- Africa 2019 to bring together national and local experiences on how water resources management contributes to climate change adaptation and improved resilience.

On 16 October 2019, the Climate Chance Summit Africa 2019 in Ghana kicked off, gathering subnational, local governments and non-state actors, to strengthen coalitions and present mitigation and adaptation measures to face climate change impacts in Africa. In line with this, UNESCO WWAP organized a side event on “strengthening coordinated water and climate actions in Africa” to discuss how water represents a crosscutting key factor for climate change adaptation.

"With each passing day, we are evermore faced with the challenge of declining water quality and increasing uncertainty of water availability due to climate change”, said Mr. Diallo Adbourahamane, Head of UNESCO National Office to Ghana, during the opening speech of the meeting. He stressed the importance of African governments to acknowledge and invest in stronger links between the SDG 6 and the other water-related SDGs.  "Without access to clean water, our girl-child will continue to travel longer distances in search of water instead of being in school,  therefore, their dream of attaining equitable and quality education for all and gender equality, Goals 4 and 5 respectively, would not become a reality”, added Mr. Diallo Adbourahamane.

During the event, Dr. Olufunke Cofie, Country Director for Ghana of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), presented a 2019 study, which showed that approximately 90% of all natural disasters of the past 20 years were water-related; floods and droughts accounted for 53% of all documented natural disasters, affecting 2.4 billion people, killing 168.000 and causing $662 billion in damage. By 2030, 700 million people globally could be displaced by intense water scarcity, reported Dr. Olufunke Cofie.

The Deputy Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources, Ghana, Hon. Patrick Yaw Boamah, mentioned some interesting actions implemented by the Government of Ghana to improve water and sanitation and to help communities become resilient to climate change impacts. He mentioned the approval of “$272 million dollars for the Tamale Water Expansion Project to serve more than 880 thousand people or the $45 million facility from the African Development Bank, to improve water and sanitation within the Greater Accra region.”

The UNESCO WWAP Consultant and facilitator of the event, Dr. Stephen Donkor, continued the workshop with his presentation on “combatting climate change and its impact through water resources protection and management: highlights of the Africa Regional Policy Papers”. He stressed the critical role of water and water resources management in Africa, which should be prioritized since they are being polluted and dwindling due to the population growth.

Numerous experts on water and climate, such as the Deputy Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation of Ghana, Hon. Patrick Yaw Boamah; the Climate Change Advisor to Ethiopia’s Minister for Water, Irrigation and Energy, Ms. Yodit Balcha; the West African Representative of the International Water Management Institute, Dr. Olufunke Cofie; The Director of Water Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Dr. Mike Yaw Osei-Atweneboana and Water Quality Specialist at International Water Management Institute Ms. Adwoa Paintsil,  presented national and local experiences and projects that their governments and institutions have been implementing to face the challenge of climate change impacts on water and food.

The presentation from Ethiopia provided a model way forward to address such impacts: a water development plan to sustain its water bodies and preserve them for future use. The Ethiopian government led one plan, one budget and one report system to achieve urban, rural and institutional WASH services. Implemented by four government ministries (Water, Irrigation and Energy, Health, Education and Finance and Economic Cooperation) and UN agencies, this plan has become a national model for good governance, with an efficient use of human and financial resources.

Three working groups followed these presentations, highlighting numerous solutions that should be implemented in Africa:

-        Modernization of the overall irrigation systems; water saving techniques to capture rainwater, strengthening the capacity of small-scale farmers; adopting conservation agriculture including mulching, minimal soil disturbance, soil management practices, can improve efficiency in Agricultural and Household Water Management.

-        Applying least cost options for production and distribution of energy, infusing modern technological adaptation for water efficiency, creating hybrid system in water and energy supply planning, can help to face climate change impacts.

-        Ecological restoration and nature based technologies and innovations, which are accessible, affordable and easy to use, can help to manage droughts and floods in Africa, mitigating their impacts.

Key messages that emerged from the meeting were: investing in water storage infrastructures and Early Warning Systems must be prioritized, as successful measures to enable the adaptation and mitigation of climate change impacts. Strong actions by African governments are required to implement human and financial resources in data gathering and analysis on the human and economic losses from disasters, to support evidence-based planning and budgeting. Institutions and relevant stakeholders should also utilize water as an instrument of regional economic and social integration in which access to water is considered a basic human right.

Report of the event

PPT of the speakers are available here

Related articles on the UNESCO WWAP side event:

  1. Africa needs to rise up to mitigate looming water insecurity 
  2. Water management is crucial to Africa's sustainable development - UNESCO 
  3. Climate Chance Summit–Africa underway in Accra 
  4. ‘Lets make conscious efforts to collect rainwater to reduce flooding in Africa’ - UNESCO Officer 
  5. Ghana deepens efforts to end flooding of Upper regions by spilling of Bagre dam 
  6. Adopt Ethiopia’s water development plans – Consultant to gov’t
  7. UNESCO urges African leaders to invest in SDG 6

Press coverage of the Summit - English, French

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