ACWR - African Centre for Water Research

Legal, Policy and Strategy Analysis and Development

UNEP/GEF Western Indian Ocean Land Based Activities (WIO-Lab) project

The Marine and coastal environment, and the goods and services it provides, are under threat in many regions of the world. Some of the world's most valuable coastal and marine ecosystems are to be found in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region. The WIO States recognized the urgent need for better and more effective management of coastal and marine resources for the purpose of improving the quality of life of its people, sustaining economies of the countries of the region, and maintaining the productivity and diversity of the ecosystems. The WIO-LaB Project focuses on addressing major land-based activities in the region and represents a strong partnership between the countries, the Norwegian Government, UNEP and GEF. The Project is executed jointly by the Nairobi Convention Secretariat and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

One of the key areas of concern for the WIO region as identified in the preliminary Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) for the region relates to the interaction between river basins and the coastal and marine environment, such as alteration and/or modifications of freshwater flows, alteration and/or modifications of sediment loads and water quality/pollution. The seriousness of this concern is furthermore understated in the LOICZ Global Change Assessments and Synthesis of River Catchment - Coastal Sea Interaction and Human Dimension of African Basins (LOICZ Reports and Studies No. 25, 2002).

The African Centre for Water Research (ACWR) was responsible for the preparation of a regional synthesis report on issues related to river-coast interactions in the WIO region. This supported the preparation of the WIO TDA focused on land-based activities in the Western Indian Ocean Region. ACWR activities included to: consolidate information and assessment of results from past national and regional assessments of issues related to river-coast interactions in the WIO region and the collation of information on the hydrology, water quality, land use, sediment fluxes, damming, etc. for the major river basins in the WIO Region (such as Shebelle, Tana, Sabaki, Pangani, Rufiji, Ruvuma, Zambezi, Limpopo and Betsiboka) from relevant river basin authorities and other appropriate institutions (where appropriate through the engagement of national focal persons/experts). For more information please refer to the project website at

UNEP/GEF Addressing Transboundary Concerns in the Volta River Basin and its Downstream Coastal Areas

The project is a regional initiative of the six basin countries; Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali and Togo. The project has been designed to facilitate the integrated management, sustainable development and protection of natural resources of the Volta River Basin. The long-term goal of the project is to enhance the ability of the countries to plan and manage the Volta catchment areas within the territories and its aquatic resources and ecosystems on a sustainable basis.

The overall aim of the project is to promote a more sectorally-coordinated management approach, based on Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) principles, both at the national and the regional levels, with a strong emphasis on an expanded role for all stakeholders.

ACWR was contracted to conduct a detailed review of the preliminary TDA document for the Volta Basin, including its development process and associated challenges and to develop the detailed methodology for the development of the TDA and of the Strategic Action Programme (SAP) for the basin. The ACWR also developed the terms of reference (TOR) for the required technical task teams of relevant national and regional experts required for the finalisation of the TDA as well as the formulation of the Strategic Action Programme. The project is funded by GEF and implemented by UNEP with UNOPS as executing agency.

Applying an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management: southern Indian Ocean Seamounts - development of project document and CEO endorsement document

The global depletion of inshore and continental shelf fisheries, coupled with improvements in fishing technology, has led commercial activities to fish further out and deeper into the oceans. Some of these fisheries are in oceanic waters beyond national exclusive economic zones (EEZs), where they are subject to weak or sometimes no regulation.

Seamounts and other topographical seabed features in the open ocean are hotspots of biological diversity and production. They also host concentrations of commercial pelagic fish as well as deep-water fish species that attract commercial fishing activities. The southern Indian Ocean remains the most significant gap in current knowledge of global seamount ecology and biodiversity. Thus, conservation and management of marine biodiversity based on precautionary and ecosystem approaches is hampered by lack of fundamental scientific knowledge and understanding of seamount ecology and their relations to benthic and pelagic fish species of commercial interest.

Evidence has shown that deep-sea bottom fisheries can cause irrevocable depletion of commercially-important fish populations in just a few years, and irreparable damage to slow-growing deep-seabed communities of cold water corals, sponges and other animals.

As of July 2008, no regulatory measures have been adopted for bottom fisheries in the southern Indian Ocean, other than the 11 voluntary Benthic Protected Areas established by the Southern Indian Ocean Deepwater Fishers Association in 2006. In addition, no governance body yet has the mandate to conserve and manage deep-sea ecosystems in the southern Indian Ocean. The Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA) is not yet in force, and the only agreement currently in force in the region, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), applies to the conservation and management of tuna and tuna-like species.

A project implemented by UNDP and IUCN with funds from the Global Environment Facility and FAO, government and private sector co-funding seeks to address the three main barriers to sustainable fisheries management and marine biodiversity conservation in the high seas, with a particular focus on seamount ecosystems. The project objective is to apply an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management for biologically- globally significant and commercially-important areas beyond national jurisdiction in the Southern Indian Ocean, focusing on seamounts, with a long-term aim to demonstrate innovative approaches to improving conservation and management of unique biodiversity and ecological resources in the high seas. The four outcomes pursued are:

  1. Scientific understanding and capacity for monitoring, assessment and analysis of high seas biodiversity and fisheries improved
  2. Governance framework for high seas resources conservation and management enhanced
  3. Options for conservation and management measures applicable to high seas areas in the Southern Indian Ocean identified
  4. Learning, awareness raising and knowledge sharing

In collaboration with IUCN and UNDP, ACWR was responsible for the development of the project document and GEF CEO endorsement document.

Development of the ORASECOM “Roadmap for Stakeholder Participation”

The involvement of stakeholders in river basin management is recognised as an important component of good governance at all scales, including internationally shared rivers. The Orange-Senqu River Commission (ORASECOM) has recently concluded the development of a roadmap for stakeholder participation in the management of the basin.

When embarking on the development of the roadmap it was decided to move away from the usually practised consultant driven approach, where a consultant develops a highly polished product but little ownership by the Commission is achieved. Instead, it was decided to follow a participatory approach to strategy development that would involve the Commission and its task teams throughout the development process. In a workshop facilitated by the ACWR the Commission members worked together with other resource persons to define the core elements of the roadmap, forming a first draft document. Lead by the ACWR this draft was further developed by selected regional resource-persons, representing each basin state, as well as a few other countries, drawn from regional research organisations, NGOs and the private sector. This resulted in the first full draft of the “roadmap towards stakeholder participation”, which was subsequently revised in cooperation with the ORASECOM Technical Task Team. The final draft of the roadmap was approved by the ORASECOM Council on 18 April at the regular Council meeting in Windhoek/ Namibia.

The ACWR was responsible for the facilitation of the roadmap development process which was based on intensive collaboration between the Commission, regional water professionals and an international development partner (InWEnt). Throughout this process, team members of the ACWR developed training and information material on stakeholder involvement in river basin management, facilitated participatory workshops for the conceptualisation of the roadmap, provided conceptual and technical input and led the drafting team that developed the final text of the roadmap.

The roadmap development was conducted on invitation by ORASECOM and funded by the TRANSNET-Programme of InWent (Capacity Building International)/ Germany.

GWP-SA/AfDB - National IWRM Planning Status for Lesotho

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is widely considered as contributing to sustainable development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The targets agreed at the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) gave new momentum in promoting IWRM, particularly the WSSD Target on National IWRM/WE Planning. At the national level, IWRM provides a basis for balancing different and increasing demands on water resources. The countries in Southern Africa are at very different stages of implementing IWRM, and have different experiences in this regard. The GWP SA, supported by the African Development Bank (through the Multi-donor Water Partnership Programme), put in place a project to examine the status of IWRM implementation in southern Africa and to develop recommendations for the way forward.

ACWR was tasked to conduct the studies on Lesotho to assess the current status of national IWRM planning and implementation, and produced a situation analysis report identifying good practices and challenges pertaining to formulation and implementation of national IWRM plans in the country; a section of the report also looked into establishing the status of national water accounts (including the economic accounting aspect of water). The project was funded by the Multi-Donor Water Partnership programme of the Africa Development Bank.

Guidelines for Environmental Management in SADC Transboundary River Basin Organisations

The environmental management functions of a SADC RBO are determined by a unique combination of the international agreements established between the SADC states, international best practice and the establishment agreement entered into by the co-basin states. The Second Regional Strategic Action Plan (RSAP II) of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) (Water Division) includes a capacity building programme in which one element is directed at river basin organisations (RBOs). One of the priority intervention areas identified by the process is the development of systems, guidelines and procedures as tools to assist the SADC RBOs in their institutional development processes.

As part of the implementation of the aforementioned programme the SADC Water Division, with the support of GTZ and USAID, is developing tools for environmental management in the RBOS. As part of this programme the ACWR contributed to the development of Guidelines for Environmental Management in RBOs. Based on an in-depth assessment of international and regional best practice, a set of Environmental Management Guidelines for SADC RBOs was developed.

The Impact and Implications of the Adoption of the 1997 UN Convention for countries in Southern Africa

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (UN Convention) represents a global instrument to promote the equitable and sustainable development and management of watercourses shared by two or more states. The convention was passed by the UN General Assembly in 1997, but for it to enter into force it has to be ratified by 35 countries. To-date just over half of the required ratifications have been received. In an effort to secure the further ratifications needed for the UN Convention to enter into force the WWF has embarked on a process of facilitating dialogue on the benefits and implications for countries of the adoption of the Convention.

In this context the ACWR was responsible to conduct a regional assessment for southern Africa of the impact and implications of the entry into force of the 1997 UN Convention for countries in southern Africa (SADC). The study assesses the implications of the entry into force of the UN Convention for SADC States. The assessment undertakes a legal comparison between the UN Convention and the SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses, looking at both obligations of substantive law as well as procedural requirements (dispute settlement mechanisms). Where possible it will be determined to what degree the current national legislation (of selected SADC countries) makes provision for the principles and approaches of the UN Convention as well as identifying possible areas of inconsistency and conflict. The objective of the study is to analyse whether and in which areas (geographic as well as substantive) the entry into force of the UN Convention could contribute to improved transboundary water management frameworks in the region. This assessment will be conducted through a desk-top study of the various components of the Convention, the SADC Protocol and national legislation, as well as through gaining inputs and comments from national water management professionals from the relevant states.

Development of the SADC Regional Water Strategy

The African Centre for Water Research has been involved in the drafting process of the SADC Regional Water Strategy. A first draft of the Regional Water Strategy was developed by regional water experts in 2005. The initial draft has subsequently been revised in a series of multi-stakeholder consultation workshops that concluded in April 2006. The final draft is now being submitted to the internal SADC review and approval process. Throughout the drafting process ACWR has been responsible, together with the Water and Infrastructure Division in the SADC Secretariat, for the planning and organisation of the drafting and consultative workshops. Additionally ACWR team members have provided technical input to the strategy. The Regional Water Strategy drafting process has been funded by the TRANSNET-Programme of InWent (Capacity Building International)/ Germany.

home | people | focus & activities | core values | working with acwr | publications | contacts

Legal, Policy and Strategy Analysis and Development: Current Projects : Completed Projects

Capacity Building: Current Projects : Completed Projects | Applied Research: Current Projects : Completed Projects