Springing Back with Water
What does building water resilience look like in a region facing surface water stress, a growing population, and climate change?
For the Southern African Development Community Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI), this could mean applying an integrated approach to managing the region’s water resources.
That way, says SADC-GMI Executive Director, Mr James Sauramba, the region would be in a position to fight back at the water challenges it faces.
“Surface water also talks to groundwater. So if we are to be resilient, we have to look at everything holistically,” Mr Sauramba said.
SADC-GMI joins the global water community to commemorate World Water Week under the theme of “Building Resilience Faster”.
The region needs to adapt and bounce back stronger. SADC-GMI Senior Groundwater Specialist Brighton Munyai said groundwater needs to be brought to the forefront to strengthen SADC against water shocks that may come.
“[We] also need to ensure water security as a way of building resilience to our water supply systems,” Mr Munyai said.
Climate change has gravely impacted water availability in the region. Over the last few years, the SADC region has suffered a prolonged drought. Earth Observatory calls it “the worst drought in several decades and perhaps a century”.
Since its inception in 2016, SADC-GMI has worked closely with the SADC Member States to mitigate climate change and other water-related changes through the sustainable use of groundwater in the region.
SADC-GMI has successfully implemented pilot projects across the region, including a high-yielding borehole that provides over 15 000 people in Chimbiya Trading Centre, Dedza District, Malawi with safe and clean water. The majority of projects were finalised in 2020 – a time when COVID-19 enlarged its footprint across the world.
Mr Sauramba said the institute had to adapt to working remotely and still have a regional impact. SADC-GMI made it work.
“We’ve learned that it is feasible. It can be done. We have also learned through the onset of COVID-19 to manage our projects more innovatively without necessarily expecting to be in the field all the time to manage projects. We remotely built trust, which is what is a key success factor for these projects to be completed,” he said.
SADC-GMI has built trust and relationships with regional partners. The institute has greatly advanced its footprint in 16 Member States by forming partnerships with various stakeholders including river basin organisations, water ministries and local communities.
“Leveraging partnerships has been one of our key growth strategies. We grew from a very small institution that could only manage the footprint within Bloemfontein [South Africa] to managing the footprint across South Africa, to managing the footprint across the entire region and beyond,” Mr Sauramba said.
The annual SADCI Groundwater conference gives the institute a platform to extend its footprint beyond the SADC region. Groundwater leaders from across the world convene to share their knowledge, challenges and strategies about ensuring groundwater in the region.
This year’s conference will be held virtually in November. It will be under the theme ‘Towards a Water Resilient SADC – Groundwater Systems Thinking’ for groundwater leaders to effectively collaborate to find solutions to the region’s water-related challenges.
In the five years that SADC-GMI has been in existence, the institute has covered immense ground in advancing sustainable groundwater use and management. Read a collection of our successes here.