Wetlands International will strengthen civil society to support ecosystem-based approaches to improve water security and reduce water-related disaster risks in Kenya and Uganda, influencing policies, investments, and practices in three hotspot watersheds. The watersheds, to be selected in 2016, are likely to be Waso Nyiro and Tana in Kenya and Rwambu in Uganda, where communities are vulnerable to water stresses and disasters, and critical action could spur change. Wetlands International will build on more than five years of experience working there with community-based organizations, local civil society, and government.
This commitment focuses on civil society strengthening and advocacy to bring about a paradigm shift in water governance and management. Wetlands International will enable community-based organizations to advocate their needs, representing vulnerable groups such as downstream water users, women and girls. It will support government and the private sector to make informed choices for equitable water distribution, using evidence-based arguments about wetland values in key watersheds, and undertaking cost-benefit analyses of investment plans (irrigation, dams). It will promote better water governance and press for policies and plans that incorporate environmental and social sustainability safeguards. Ultimately, 180 individuals will be trained and educated through this commitment, while the benefits of better watershed management could impact the lives of thousands. Government commitments and investments will be screened and tracked. Business cases for investing in wetlands as natural infrastructure for improved water security will be developed, and used for engaging investors (e.g. development banks), and corporates.
Wetlands International works globally to develop and implement wetland solutions for sustainable development. In Uganda and Kenya, this has resulted in improved water flows and quality, reduced erosion, and minimized the risks of damaging floods, droughts, and loss of ecosystem services. Bottom-up dialogues with government have been brokered, leveraging several times the initial investment to meet community needs.
Wetlands International and partners will:
- By December 2016, define hotspot watersheds; undertake stakeholder power mapping, baseline and context analyses in Uganda and Kenya; assess capacity gaps of civil society (e.g. for lobbying); develop a monitoring and evaluation plan; develop fundraising, advocacy & communication strategies;
- By December 2017, select key policies or investments as targets for change; engage key stakeholders (at least 10 government organizations local and national, 5 private sector actors, 10 community-based organizations, and 20 NGOs) in at least three hotspot watersheds in Uganda and Kenya in dialogue; be underway in coaching and training plans on advocacy and lobbying for local civil society organizations; develop and start implementing education and awareness raising actions on ecosystem-based approaches to water security, integrate water resource management and community resilience for local and national government officials and civil society; and
- By December 2018, support civil society in a dialogue with decision-makers and investors on proposed changes or additions to at least 5 policies at varying scales (international, national, watershed-level), with evidence of positive influence on two of the five in inclusion in plans of pro-ecosystem, pro-community, and pro-IWRM elements as well as at least $500,000 committed by government or investors to their implementation; and support (coaching, training, knowledge) at least 60 representatives of local civil society and community-based organization in advocacy for integrated approaches, and raise awareness of an additional estimated 60 other stakeholders (government, private sector).
Rural and peri-urban Kenyan and Ugandan communities are at risk from decreasing water security. Agriculture and industry, together with climate change are affecting the amount, quality, and flow of natural water resources, by direct withdrawals of water and degrading the wetland ecosystems that regulate water. Planned dams and irrigation schemes could increase these communities vulnerability.
In Kenya and Uganda, according to World Health Organization country profiles, about one-third of the population lacks access to clean water, and two-thirds to improved sanitation. Boreholes run dry because of poor placement, poor land management, plus upstream water diversion for irrigation or hydropower. Placement of latrines near drinking water sources cause preventable outbreaks of water-borne diseases. Altered river flow regimes cause ecosystem degradation in turn affecting water availability and quality downstream, and increasing likelihood and impact of floods and droughts. This negatively impacts the downstream communities that rely upon those ecosystems for crops, fish, food, and materials harvested from the wetlands, and water for household use and livestock.
Policy frameworks guiding integrated water resource management exist in both countries. However, disaster risk management (regulation of floods and droughts) and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) often remain separate and secondary to economic development plans.
New policies (decentralization) and national commitments (e.g. to the Sustainable Development Goals) offer civil society the chance to advocate for changes at the watershed, national and international levels that will improve their water security and prevent or reduce water-related disaster risks. To do this, local actors need knowledge-based evidence, position in governance processes and an improved capability to engage.