3rd SADC Groundwater Conference 2020 - A Virtual Success
Groundwater is a catalyst for food security and economic and social development in the SADC region, said delegates at the 3rd SADC Groundwater Conference.
Participants at one of the conference sessions
In response to water and food insecurity experienced in the SADC region and the rest of the African content, the SADC Groundwater Management Institute in collaboration with other regional and international partners hosted the 3rd SADC Groundwater Conference, under the theme “Enhancing Water and Food Security through Sustainable Groundwater Development in the SADC Region”. The conference was virtual, and attracted about 150 participants from the SADC region, African continent and beyond.
The conference advocated for a more central and pronounced role for groundwater in the Water Energy Food Ecosystem (WEFE) nexus dialogue as a way of minimising shocks, risks and vulnerability to climate change.
Giving opening remarks Dr Patrice Kabeya, SADC Secretariat’s Water Division Senior Programme Officer said the conference was aligned with the SADC-GMI strategy to enhance its capacity in addressing the region’s groundwater challenges through leveraging on a wide range of willing partners, which include governments, River Basin Organizations (RBOs), international cooperating partners (ICP), researchers, universities and many other institutions in the SADC region and beyond. He also revealed that the SADC Secretariat and the SADC-GMI were at an advanced stage in formulating the “Sustainable Groundwater Management in SADC Member States Phase 2 project, which will commence in the second half of 2021 through funding from the World Bank’s Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) Program.
“We hope that this 3rd SADC Groundwater Conference will bring solutions that will improve water security in the region and consequently boost the development of agriculture and food security,” said Mr Macie, Director of National Water Resources Management, Mozambique in his opening remarks.
He further emphasized that achievement of sustainable development goals, including on food and water security, will only be possible through robust collaboration in the planning process, mobilization of financing, and efficient implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the plans and programs taken forward.
The conference was divided into three sub-themes:
- Sustainable Groundwater use for a Food Secure SADC region
- The Climate Change Challenge for Urban Water and Food Security: Threats and the role of Groundwater
- Enhancing the contribution of Groundwater in the WEFE Nexus through Effective Groundwater Governance at National and Transboundary Level
Providing his keynote address Dr Kevin Pietersen from the University of the Western Cape emphasized the fact that as the SADC region, we need to recognize groundwater as the catalyst for economic and social development in the SADC region. He further said groundwater could play a significant role in sustainable development and building resilience. He also highlighted the importance of transboundary aquifers (TBAs) to socio-economic development of the SADC region especially in light of the increased pressures on groundwater from population growth and climate change. Karen Villholth from the International Water Management Institute in her key note address highlighted the potential of groundwater for food security and more resilient agriculture in SADC, especially for smallholder farmers, and the need to ensure the sustainable development of the resource under climate change in order to underpin long-term food security and poverty alleviation.
The opening session of the conference highlighted the following key messages:
- There is a need for a better understanding of the Water Energy Food Ecosystems (WEFE) nexus in a climate context and to advocate for a more central role for groundwater in the nexus, anchored on a sound understanding of groundwater systems
- Groundwater can make a significant contribution in responding to the current (Covid-19) pandemic in terms of providing water and food security
- Political decisions need to be made to break the WEFE nexus barriers
- There are opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa to ramp up groundwater development, supported by a policy framework to enhance groundwater as a catalyst for food security and economic and social development
- Hydrogeological Map of Lesotho was developed and used to develop water balance for selected basins providing initial estimates of available water at the basin level
- Hydrogeological maps and integrated assessments provide significant information on available water at the basin levelThere is a need to develop common awareness and understanding among current and future decision makers in Africa on the significance of groundwater in food security
- Groundwater still holds a large potential for smallholder irrigation in Sub-Saharan Africa and is a preferred water source for many farmers in Africa.
Forty oral presentations were given over the three days of the conference spread across the three themes.
The conference also provided organizing partners with an opportunity to host special sessions where experiences on groundwater topics in the region were shared. The following special sessions were hosted:
- Knowledge sharing workshop for focal points and RBOs/TBAs: Dissemination of Lessons Learnt from the Stampriet and RAMOTSWA transboundary aquifers (organized by SADC-GMI, UNESCO-IHP/GGRETA and GIZ)
- Groundwater for Food in Africa: Current Opportunities and Challenges (organized by IWMI, GRIPP, AMCOW, World Bank, and FAO)
- Mainstreaming Water and Food Security into Transboundary Water Cooperation (organized by IUCN/BRIDGE)
- Cross-Learning on Shared Groundwaters: The Tuli Karoo and Eastern Kalahari Karoo Aquifers (organized by SADC-GMI, IWMI, Governments of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe)
Some of the speakers who presented at the Conference: Dr Kevin Pietersen University of the Western Cape , Dr Karen G. Villholth – International Water Management Institute, Dr Moshood Tijani – African Ministers’ Council on Water, and Dr Barbara Van Koppen -International Water Management Institute.
The conference was sponsored by the SADC Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI), International Union Conservation Nature (IUCN), Strathclyde University (Scotland), International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and UNESCO-IHP. Other organizations who technically supported the conference were: International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC), Institute for Groundwater Studies (IGS), Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR), and University of Botswana.
Closing the conference, Mr James Sauramba, SADC-GMI Executive Director, said “in our view we are happy that we could meet virtually and discuss issues that affect us on a daily basis, we also sincerely appreciate the support we constantly receive from our constituencies as we continue to answer many questions about groundwater, that is as obscure as the underground nature of the resource that we are exploring. I hope that as a groundwater family we are walking out of this conference wiser than when we came in. I trust that the conference enabled us to collectively bring forth opportunities to continue working together in enhancing the sustainability for conjunctive utilization of surface and groundwater to build resilience in the SADC region”, concluded Mr Sauramba.
The SADC Groundwater conference has become one of the major annual events that stakeholders and partners appreciate and look forward to every year. We are looking forward to the 4th Groundwater Conference, the details of which will be shared in the course of the year.
To see recorded conference sessions, click on the YouTube playlist here.
To review PowerPoint presentations including the rapporteurs’ report, click here and download them from Dropbox.
Conference Media Coverage
Future Media, Namibia:
Radio interview with Bertram Swartz – Deputy Director, Directorate of Water Resource Management – Namibia
Interview on DIRCO Ubuntu Radio:
Groundwater for Food – Opportunities & Challenges in Africa, with Principal Researcher Karen Villholth
News piece on Zimbabwe Business Times:
‘Zim Should Better Manage Groundwater, by Principal Researcher Karen Villholth
Groundwater is improving lives of communities in Dite and Whunga, Zimbabwe.
The project was recently completed by the SADC-GMI as part of the Sustainable Groundwater Management in SADC Member States Project
Go to 10 min 15 sec of the video clip