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UNU’s Activities in and on Africa

Water & Desertification


Sudan, Pieri, Jonglei State — Women carrying water from a hand pump in the village to their homes in South Sudan. Photographer © Sven Torfinn

Completed projects appear below those ongoing.

Sustainable Management of Marginal Drylands (SUMAMAD)

UNU International Network on Water Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH)

Contact: Bhim Adhikari

Time frame: 2009–2013 (second phase)

The Sustainable Management of Marginal Drylands (SUMAMAD- Phase 2, 2009-2013) project is jointly managed by UNU-INWEH and UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme. This 5-year project was formally initiated in March 2009, and builds on the first 4-year phase of the project (2003-2007). The overall emphasis of the second phase of the project is on climate change and policy measures needed to effectively adapt to the changes in marginal drylands, and emphasizes training, capacity building and interaction with landowners and farmers.

Tags: Africa, water, desertification, Northern Africa, drylands

Sustainable Management of Marginal Drylands (SUMAMAD)

UNU International Network on Water Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH)

Contact: Dr. Brigitte Schuster

Time frame: 2003–2007 (first phase), and ongoing

During the later years of the first phase of the SUMAMAD Project, research teams have initiated several training schemes addressed to local communities as well as scientists participating in the SUMAMAD Project. This included training of students and several seminars for local people on various topics. The capacity building efforts at different scales will continue during the second phase of the project.

Tags: Africa, capacity development, water, desertification, community

Water Virtual Learning Center UNU International Network on Water Environment and Health

UNU International Network on Water Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH)

Contact: Velma Grover

Time frame: 2005–2010

UNU-INWEH’s flagship distance education initiative, originally developed in partnership with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), is directed at practicing water professionals to enhance their knowledge of modern water management concepts and practices. It offers broad-based coverage of the principles and practices of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), with students learning core concepts in the natural sciences, engineering, health, governance, public administration, social sciences, economics, resource conservation, strategic planning, as well as aspects of programme and project management.

The curriculum is CD-ROM based and Internet-supported and consists of 10 courses, totalling approximately 250 learning hours. In Africa, there are two WVLC centers based at the University of Ghana, Ghana and the University of Nairobi, Kenya.

Tags: Africa, capacity development, water, desertification, Integrated Water Resources Management

Finding solutions to Polluted Lake-shore Drinking Water in Rural African Communities: Women, Community Learning and Appropriate Technology

UNU International Network on Water Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH)

Contact: Velma Grover

Time frame: 2008–2010

Through a funding grant provided by AGFUND, the main objective of the project is to develop an integrated planning framework for the provision of safe drinking water to lakeside communities, based on a synthesis of regional Great Lakes experiences. Applicability of this framework will be tested through a pilot project in Kenyan communities on the shore of lake Victoria. The pilot project will lead to the planning, implementation and operation of community-based, women-led pollution control and drinking water treatment programmes. These lake water treatment programmes and technologies will be designed to be replicable on a large-scale throughout the African Great Lakes Region.

Tags: Africa, capacity development, water, desertification, Great Lakes, Lake Victoria, Kenya, drinking water, integrated planning

Bridging continents, building health, benefitting communities: integrated management of safe water in near shore communities in the African and Laurentian Great Lakes

UNU International Network on Water Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH)

Contact: Corrine Wallace

Time frame: 2008–2010

The essential goal of the proposed project is to build capacity for local development of an integrated planning framework for the sustainable provision of safe water to lakeside communities in 6 pilot communities (3 in Africa, 3 in Canada), then evaluate these frameworks for subsequent dissemination of best practices in these countries and potentially beyond (e.g., Latin America). The African and Laurentian Great Lakes represent the largest and most secure sources of drinking water for tens of millions of people as well as an essential component of a local economy (fishing; boating; other recreational uses) including ecosystem services (e.g., climactic regulation).

Regrettably, however, most of the near shore areas of these lakes are severely contaminated from faecal, nutrient, organic and industrial pollution and are unfit for human use (consumption; swimming; fishing) even though, not far off shore (e.g., 500 meters in the case of Lake Victoria) the water is safe.

Tags: Africa, capacity development, water, desertification, Laurentian Great Lakes, Lake Victoria, drinking water, local economy, fishing, recreation, ecosystems, pollution

Climate change, hydro-conflicts and human security (CLICO)

United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)

Contact: Fabrice Renaud, Lars Wirkus

Time frame: 2010.01.01–2012.12.31

CLICO is a three year research project funded by the European Commission. It aims at filling fill knowledge gaps over the social dimensions of climate change. In particular the project is investigating whether hydro-climatic hazards such as droughts and floods exacerbate social tensions, intra- and inter-state conflicts in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Sahel, or if they provide a catalyst for cooperation and peace.

Within the CLICO project UNU-EHS’ tasks are, amongst others, to participate in the creation of the CLICO conceptual framework and the protocol for case studies that will frame case-study research design as well as in the development of an integrated theory on threats to security from climate change impacts on hydrological systems. In that regard UNU-EHS will also conduct two in-depth field research based hydro-conflict case studies, one in Egypt, focusing on the Metropolitan Region of Alexandria and another one in Niger. Research focuses on the linkages between water resources degradation (or pressures), environmental and social vulnerability and, migration, all potentially leading to conflicts. Moreover formal and informal structures of water governance in the case study areas will be analyzed and assessed with particular focus on their adaptive capacity to the impacts of climate change and their dispute settlement mechanisms and against national and international legal frameworks.

Locations: Egypt, Niger

Tags: adaptation, conflict/post conflict, human security, migration, vulnerability/risk, environmental degradation

Completed Projects

Regional Dialogue and Twinning to Improve Transboundary Water Resources Governance in Africa

UNU International Network on Water Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH)

Contact: Velma Grover

Time frame: 2008–2009

Water management needs in the Great Lakes region of Africa are acute, with inadequate institutions, policies and implementation capacity for effective watershed management. As part of a larger GEF project “Regional Dialogue to Improve Transboundary Water Resources Governance in Africa”, UNU-INWEH is undertaking a comparative study of management approaches by lake commissions in the African Great Lakes and Laurentian Great Lakes in North America.

Tags: Africa, capacity development, water, desertification, Great Lakes, GEF, comparative study

Ground Water and Human Security: Case Studies (GWAHS-CS)

UNU International Network on Water Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH)

Contact: Dr. Brigitte Schuster

Time frame: 2008–2009

The GWAHS project aims to train scientists or experts in the use of vulnerability assessment methodologies that are adapted to the local and/or regional contexts. In addition, the project encourages South-South cooperation between case study experts and institutions.

Tags: Africa, capacity development, water, desertification, south-south cooperation

Quo Vadis Aquifers (QVA) Programme, Groundwater and Human Security: Case Studies (GWAHS-CS)

United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)

Contact: Bhim Adhikari

Time frame: 2008–2009

In the frame of the Quo Vadis Aquifers project, the Groundwater and Human Security–Case Studies (GWAHS-CS) project was launched by UNU-EHS, UNESCO-IHP (International Hydrological Programme of UNESCO) and UNU-INWEH (International Network on Water, Environment and Health) to study the relationship between groundwater (both as an opportunity and a threat) and human security.

The main objective of the research project is to adapt and apply vulnerability assessment methods to determine the vulnerability of communities who face freshwater supply problems, with an emphasis on groundwater. One of the four study areas is a region of the Nile River in Egypt (Wadi El Natroun). Infiltrating water from the Nile River is the main recharge source for the four existing groundwater aquifers. Water supply for domestic, agricultural and industrial purposes is mainly extracted from a Pliocene aquifer.

In the last decade the economic development (linked to growing agricultural activities and population growth), lack of waste water treatment and sanitation systems led to the overexploitation and contamination of the aquifers. The unsustainable over pumping has caused salinisation, the depletion of ground water levels and a reduction of groundwater quality. The case study will help to characterize the vulnerability of selected communities facing various types of groundwater degradation processes.

Tags: Africa, water, desertification, ground water, human security, Egypt, Nile River, sanitation

Ground Water and Human Security – Case Studies (GWAHS-CS)

UNU International Network on Water Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH)

Contact: Bhim Adhikari

Time frame: 2008–2009

Together with UNESCO-IHP and UNU-EHS, the UNU-INWEH implements the Ground Water and Human Security – Case Studies (GWAHS-CS) initiative. One of the four case studies is located in Egypt. GWAHS will be implemented over a period of 2 years (2008-2009) and aims to address the threats to human security and well-being currently posed by ground water scarcity and ground water quality degradation in developing countries. The focus is on assessing the vulnerability of communities resulting from groundwater degradation.

Tags: Africa, water, desertification, human security, water scarcity, vulnerability, community

Water Governance in the context of Local Water Disputes (a MICROCON project)

UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)

Contact: Lars Wirkus

Timeframe: August 2007 – November 2009

EHS and Microcon

Official site

Publication: forthcoming

The discourse on water and violence so far has very much focused on the “water wars” hypothesis. However, experiences show that the danger of violent escalation of water-related conflicts is biggest on the local (water point) level – be it between water users in a rural environment or new types of violence in the form of ‘water riots‘ in villages or urban settings.

As part of the EU-funded five-year “Micro Level Analysis of Violent Conflict” (MICROCON) research project, UNU-EHS has undertaken qualitative research on modern state-based mechanisms of water management and water governance as well as informal customary, non-state water management instruments and dispute settlement mechanisms at the local level. The project analyzed several types of water resource related conflicts in four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cases were drawn from conflicts between competing groups of sedentary farmers, pastoralist-farmer conflicts, conflicts in settlements and conflicts due to (forced) resettlement as a result of large hydropower projects. This research gained knowledge on how ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ institutions shape water related (potential) violent conflicts and in what ways local governance (e.g. customary institutions and laws) can be linked analytically with national and international institutions for water management.

Location: Botswana, Okavango Delta; Lesotho, LHWP; Namibia, Southern Kunene region; Tanzania, Lake Eyasi region

Tags: conflict, peace and security, policy, vulnerability/risk, water governance, institutions, conflict prevention, customary law

From Water Law to the Human Right to Water

United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)

Contact: Janos Bogardi

UNU-EHS contributed and co-sponsored the publishing of a publication in collaboration with UNESCO entitled Du droit de l’eau au droit à l’eau au Maroc et ailleurs (From Water Law to the Human Right to Water in Morocco and Elsewhere), UNESCO/Eddif/UNU/UNU-EHS, Casablanca, Morocco 2007 (French only).

The author, Houria Tazi Sadeq, from Morocco, is the President of ALMAE (Mahgreb-Mashrek Alliance for Water) and holder of a UNESCO interdisciplinary chair for sustainable water management. This publication, the first of its kind in Morocco, deals with water law from the perspective of sustainable development. The book offers a useful case study for the exchange of similar experiences in other countries. It could also promote the emergence of a new field of studies related to changes in water governance and propose innovative solutions to new challenges arising in the field of water resources management.

Tags: Africa, water, desertification, sustainability, development, law, Morocco

Introduction to MIKE-BASIN/WEAP

UNU Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) and Centre for Development Research, Bonn, Germany

The MIKE-BASIN and WEAP models are used in water resources planning and management. The GLOWA-VOLTA project wants one of these models to be adapted, for water resource management in the Volta basin. In this regards, there is a need to compare the models in order to make an informed choice about, which of them should be adapted and used in managing water resources in the basin. As part of GLOWA-VOLTA project capacity building and technological transfer programme, a one day workshop was organised on 26th June, 2008 at Africa Wetland Centre, University of Ghana, Legon. The objective of the workshop was to introduce participants to these water allocation and reservoir operation models. The workshop was a combination of short lectures and demonstrations.

Location: Centre for Africa Wetlands, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra

Modeling Water Movement and Solute Transport in the Vadose Zone Using HYDRUS-1D

UNU Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) and Centre for Development Research, Bonn, Germany

Contact: Benjamin Kofi Nyarko, Karl Harmsen, Barnabas Amisigo, B. Barry

Timeframe: 13–16 January, 2009

GLOWA Volta Project

The main objective of the workshop is to:

  1. Explain physics of unsaturated water movement and solutes transport
  2. Teach participants how to use the model HYDRUS-1D for analysis of water movement and solutes transport in the vadose zone for their own projects

Location: Miklin Hotel, Accra, Ghana

Training on the use and application of the M³ WATER Model: Allocation of Water Resources in the Volta Basin under population growth, changing climate and rising food and energy prices

UNU Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) and Centre for Development Research, Bonn, Germany

Introduction of coupled hydrological-economic model M³ WATER for the Volta River Basin to the potential User community.Discussion on policy scenarios, climate change scenarios and transboundary water allocation for the Volta Basin.

Hands on feedback of stakeholders on the possible institutional implementation, data requirements user friendliness and required results options of the M³ WATER model

Location: Centre for Africa Wetlands, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra

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Page last modified 2011.06.07.




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