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Conjunctive Water Management for Food Security and Resilience

At the top of the Thune Dam

The SADC Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI) in collaboration with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Limpopo Watercourse Commission (LIMCOM) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) are implementing a 3 year USAID funded project aimed at strengthening cooperation on the conjunctive management of surface and groundwater in the Tuli Karoo System to improve food security and resilience.The Tuli karoo aquifer is shared among Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe and the project focuses on achieving a solid understanding of the system and explore the scope for conjunctive management to improve water security in the three countries.

The workshop was officially opened by Ms Bogadi Mathangwane- Deputy Director, Department of Water and Sanitation Botswana, and Mr Robert Muptepfa, Deputy Director Water Resources Planning and Development (Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Settlement. Both country representatives welcomed delegates to the workshop and wished them fruitful deliberations.  Mr. Brighton Munyai – Senior Groundwater Specialist at SADC-GMI in his opening remarks during the workshop indicated that Transboundary Aquifers present an increasingly important resource for attaining water security in light of increasing water demand from  population growth and impact of climate change. He said SADC-GMI is cognisance of the fact that sustainable management of TBAs requires that the characteristics of the TBAs are known, that is why the SADC-GMI is partnering with regional and international partners in ensuring that studies are undertaken  on  more transboundary aquifers in the SADC region to understand  their physical/institutional and socio-economic dynamics for sustainable water management.Brighton also highlighted that a lot of work still needs to be done on Transboundary aquifers in the region given that only four of the 30 TBAs shared amongst SADC Member States have  been studied in detail.

Securing water sources has become a critical area of focus for the water stressed southern African region. In the Tuli Karoo System, dams are a common feature with large dams in the Botswana portion and both large and subsurface sand dams in the Zimbabwe portion. Moreover, the shared aquifer provides an important source of water for domestic use and irrigation. Such realities highlight the growing need to increase coordination in the management of this transboundary system.

From 02 – 04 October 2019, a Joint Stakeholder workshop was held in Francistown, Botswana. The objective of the workshop was to deliberate on the transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA),  familiarize stakeholders with the study area through the site visit, and chart the next steps of the project. Over 35 participants drawn from the water ministries of the three countries  as well as supporting organisations andpartners including the Limpopo Watercourse Commission (LIMCOM), Resilient Waters Program and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).The workshop engaged the three countries (sharing the Tuli Karoo transboundary aquifer on the transboundary diagnostic analysis (TDA). Mozambique, which shares the Limpopo Basin with Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, was also represented during the discussions and on the last day participated in a Limpopo Groundwater Committee meeting.

The TDA, a data synthesis and analysis effort carried out by IWMI researchers and young professionals from the participating countries – constitutes the first integrated analysis of the shared Tuli Karoo Basin. On the 2nd day of the workshop, a tour of the Botswana portion of the aquifer took participants to locations of interest including the Thune dam near Bobonong,  the Bobonong Wellfield, which is in the Tuli Karoo  aquifer, and a smallholder agricultural farm utilising groundwater.

Going forward, the project will seek to bring further understanding on possible solutions that can enhance water availability and food security in the mainly rural population of the Tuli Karoo System. Strengthening the monitoring of groundwater levels is one of the first steps towards getting a grip on the dynamics of groundwater usage and availability in the Tuli Karoo system. Small scale agriculture, a key socio economic activity in the region relies heavily on water availability, in this respect the project will endeavour to enhance water use efficiency in smallholder farmers. Further, the mapping of Managed Aquifer Recharge suitability and understanding recharge from large and small dams will be explored as well as the impacts of climate variability on groundwater dependant ecosystems.

Participants climbing the top of Thune Dam in Bobonong area, Botswana. The Thune Dam supplies water to approximately 30 000 people from surrounding areas

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