UNESCO holds a Special Session on the SADC-WIN Initiative

A special session on the SADC Integrated Water Resources Management Initiative was held on 29 October 2020 during the WaterNet 2020 virtual Symposia. The Special Session deliberated on the progress made since the initiation of the programme in 2017.

In his opening remarks, UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa Prof. Hubert Gijzen highlighted that because of extreme weather events causing floods and droughts, the SADC region faced massive water and food insecurity affecting the lives and livelihoods of many. He said humanitarian response is continuously being given to support the vulnerable and affected population in the region but has done little to prevent or reduce impact from extreme events. He reminded participants that prevention is better than cure and called for more investments in preventative measures saying, “humanitarian responses are extremely costly”.

Prof Gijzen indicated that there is need to provide strong medium to long term development response aimed at building resilience and reduce the impact of future extreme weather events. He indicated that there is need to support innovation in the water sector, to develop robust water technologies and build stronger water sector institutions, research and human capacities.

Through the SADC-WIN initiative, UNESCO supported the launch of the National Framework for Climate Services in Zimbabwe a process which is still ongoing. UNESCO is also implementing the Stampriet Transboundary Aquifer System (STAS) multi-country cooperation Mechanism between South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, as part of the Governance of Groundwater Resources in Transboundary Aquifers (GGRETA) project. The project is now also covering the rest of the transboundary aquifers in Africa.

GGRETA focal person Prof Piet Kenabatho elaborated on the achievements of the GGRETA project particularly looking at Phase 1 and 2 of the project. He informed participants that GRETTA phase 3 seeks to build on the lessons learnt from Phase 1 and 2 and replicate some of the initiatives in other regions.

Several other speakers also spoke widely on the initiatives they are leading under the SADC-WIN programme. Speaking on behalf of Dr Justin Sherfield from University of Southampton and Princeton Climate Institute, UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa Science Specialist Dr Koen Verbist spoke about the National Flood and Drought Monitors being developed in the region.

Prof Gijzen and Prof Innocent Nhapi (water expert) highlighted the innovative water chain approach as a game changer in insuring water use and reuse in the region while Dr Neno Kukuric (Director,  International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre )and Mr James Sauramba (Executive  Director, Groundwater Management Institute) spoke widely on the groundwater monitoring initiative in the region.

Dr Verbist briefed the participants on the recently developed open learning platform and encouraged participants to register for the courses, which are already on the platform.

The SADC-WIN initiative focuses on addressing the impacts of perennial extreme weather using holistic innovative water chain approaches in parallel to the humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities. The special session attracted over 70 participants who included government representatives, River Basin Authorities, engineers, water resources managers, non-governmental organisations, UN agencies as well as academia.