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Development Account Projects

Capacity-building for integrated shared water
resources management in Southern Africa


The Southern Africa subregion is characterized by at least 15 shared water courses and aquifers. Five countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have water dependency ratios of over 50 per cent1 and 70 per cent of the regional surface water is shared between two or more countries. The subregion presents a high spatial and temporal variability in water resources availability. It is projected that in the next 20 to 30 years, three or four SADC countries will be facing serious water shortages. As economic growth progresses and population grows, several countries in the subregion are predicted to become "water stressed" by 2025. The subregion is also experiencing a high prevalence of droughts and floods, low access to safe drinking water and sanitation and widespread food insecurity due to low agricultural production. These factors could impact negatively on the capacity of countries of the subregion to meet the Millennium Development Goal targets on water and sanitation, unless urgent action is taken to address the issues.

Sustainable water management is central in attaining the major Millennium
Development Goals. Water scarcity is central to the poverty challenge in Africa. The Southern Africa subregion has, over the past decade, taken steps towards the development of the SADC protocol on shared watercourses systems, the SADC regional water policy and the regional strategic water infrastructure development programme. The programme aims to develop water infrastructure needed to double land under irrigation and halve the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation in Southern Africa by 2015.

The proposed project aims at supporting the SADC efforts in shared water resources management to expedite the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals in the subregion. It is designed to improve the regional management of the shared water resources and enhance the capacity of river basin organizations, national and regional bodies involved in the management of shared water resources in order to achieve equity, efficiency and sustainability in the use and management of shared water resources. The project will also be instrumental in promoting policy networking among river basin organizations through information-sharing and knowledge management, drawing on best practices and lessons learned from riverbasins such as the Mekong and Danube.

The project will also build on lessons learned from similar projects on shared water resources development projects implemented by the ECA in different subregions and countries in Africa, the ESCAP initiatives in promoting Integrated Water Resources Management in the Mekong River in collaboration with the Mekong River Commission, and the ECE support to the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River. The project will be implemented by the ECA subregional office for Southern Africa, in collaboration with other divisions at ECA headquarters. ECA will also work closely with the regional water associations, the SADC and common market for eastern and Southern Africa secretariats as well as ESCAP and ECE in the implementation of the project

The project is in line with objectives of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the African Ministerial Council on water commitment on improving national and regional initiatives for IWRM in countries and transboundary basins in Africa. It supports the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, NEPAD activity to increase land under-irrigation in Africa and the Agenda 212 advocacy on water use for sustainable development, as well as the African Network of Basin Organizations vision of mobilizing the practical experience on shared water resources management for development in Africa. The project also addresses the current ECA strategic focus on promoting regional integration and helping to meet Africa's special needs in support of NEPAD.



To strengthen the capacity of Governments and river basin organizations in the SADC subregion in integrated water resources management for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and contribute to accelerating progress towards achieving regional integration in the subregion.

Expected accomplishments:

  • Strengthened regional cooperation in the management of shared water resources to increase agricultural productivity, improve energy generation, and enhance access to clean drinking water and sanitation for poverty alleviation at the subregional level
  • Enhanced capacities of river basin organizations, water sector policymakers and riparian communities for integrated shared water resources management

Implementation status:

In progress