Study reveals role of finance for water in fragile Sahelian region
A study into the financing of water-related projects in the fragile Liptako-Gourma region of the Sahel has paved the way for a dialogue on responses to the security crises in the area. The study was intended to reveal how water initiatives for domestic and productive uses are deployed through development project and humanitarian actions in fragile areas such as the Liptako-Gourma region against the background of a deterioration in the security situation and a growing humanitarian crisis. Underlying the study was the evidence that water is a priority need for conflict affected communities as well as a key to the revival of the rural economy. Despite strong willingness of the international community both to support the development efforts of the states in the region and to respond to humanitarian needs, a sound and comprehensive vision on the strategic role of water is still missing.
To contribute to this complex endeavour, one of the key objectives of the study was to provide a unified overview of all the water related initiatives that were underway in this fragile area in 2020. The study inventoried a total of 575 budgetary commitments in the area consisting of 218 development projects and 357 flows of humanitarian support in order to draw conclusions about financial strategies in the field of water services and productive water uses. The study outlines project portfolio of all funders and agencies that engages in water for domestic and productive uses in the region. Furthermore, the study incorporated views of local leaders and actors on the current crisis, that were collected during a strategic meeting in June 2021 in Ouagadougou. They were invited to communicate their opinion on the existing support being provided, the role that water play in local intercommunity dynamics and the role local communities living in these fragile areas aspire to play as part of the solution to the current situation.
Researchers note that projects dedicated to water and sanitation, there are significant geographical disparities: some 60% of budget allocations are for urban projects whereas 80% of the population on the region is rural. But beyond this classical lecture of disparity, they called for a more elaborated views on various water points in rural Sahel, backed by geodata mapping, to further understand the hydropolitical stakes behind the key challenge of addressing socio-economic fragilities and local inequalities to access natural resources and basis services that are fuelling the security crisis.
Developing open access to information on international aid and other major principles of aid effectiveness is one key obstacle in that view. A strategic vision is needed to move beyond the typical investment in major watercourse in order to encompass groundwater, and semi-temporary surface water. That vision should encompass water, soil and forestry preservation community-led measures to mitigate the coming structural drought period in less than a decade. Further, strategic maps highlight the distribution of violent incidents in this border zone of project deployments, which calls for the operationalisation of a nexus between development and humanitarian actors. The authors notice that despite a highly fragmented setting of coordination, dialogues and initiatives by these actors are underway to implement innovative bottom-approaches and collaborate to reinforce institutions and service providers of the region to meet the lasting recovery challenge.
There is strong context among researchers that any approach should address the challenge of ensuring coherence at local level by building interventions upon key figures of local communities. This would be necessary to restore social contract among population and facilitate the return of state presence on a background of failed development policies which had its part of responsibilities in the burst of the crisis. As a vital and irreplaceable resource of rural economy, water cooperation has the potential to open dialogues among rival communities and engage states to reinvent their development policies.
Editor of The Water Diplomat news media
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