Two oceans, six countries, three distinct languages: the nations of Cabo Verde, Comoros, Maldives, Mauritius, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Seychelles may appear to have little in common, but as small island developing States (SIDS), they face very similar challenges in managing waste and water resources.
The six countries, located in the Atlantic and Indian oceans (AIO), differ profoundly in their size and level of economic development but share problems relating to the scarcity and contamination of freshwater supplies; over-exploitation and poor management of groundwater resources; increasing pressure on agricultural production; and rapidly disappearing biodiversity. To a lesser or greater degree, they also face serious difficulties providing their populations with clean drinking water and waste management facilities.
Towards a Solution
In response to these challenges, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded a full-sized project to address the urgent need for Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and to improve water use efficiency in the SIDS of the Atlantic and Indian oceans. The project, Implementing Integrated Water Resources Management in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean Small Island Developing States (IWRM AIO SIDS), jointly implemented by UNDP and UN Environment Programme (UNEP), has worked to strengthen the commitment and capacity of the six participating countries in implementing an integrated, ecosystem- based approach to the management of freshwater resources. The project’s aim is to ensure that each country is adequately prepared to manage its aquatic resources and ecosystems sustainably.
The methodology that the project uses to address water resources challenges at each island is the promotion and implementation of IWRM and Water Use Efficiency (WUE). IWRM is defined as a process that promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources to maximize the resulting economic and social welfare equitably without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems. By promoting IWRM implementation, the project supported the countries in terms of achieving SDGs related to water, sanitation, ecosystems management and beyond.
The project was designed so that each country demonstrated one innovative approach for achieving IWRM. All demonstrations were different, so the project allows six SIDS to see and learn from the results of six different approaches through South-South exchanges. This was achieved by holding regional trainings in skills that all countries need, including communication and monitoring indicators, so that the participants from the six countries can learn both from trainers and their peers from other countries about their best practices.
For example, in Cabo Verde, farmers in Colonato participating in the demonstration were trained and supported with micro-irrigation kits. In total, 100 kits for water-efficient
agricultural production were distributed. Two workshops were held to train farmers on agricultural production using treated wastewater via a micro-drip irrigation system. Special emphasis was also placed on training women farmers on tree planting and aquifer protection measures, such as preventing coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion. In total, the project facilitated the planting of 3,000 fruit trees and 1,000 halophyte (salt- tolerant) plants, forming a living barrier against erosion and helping to improve soils in the Colonato agricultural area.
In Comoros and São Tomé and Príncipe, the project supported the development and implementation of an IWRM plan for the Mutsamudu River basin and significantly improved the management of the river catchment. The project was implemented in a highly participatory manner, with communities, the army, the municipality and the regional government fully engaged in implementing various activities to protect their own water source. The awareness-raising campaign included major river clean-up activities, coupled with trials of solid waste collection services. These efforts helped pave the way for the regional government to establish a responsible solid waste management system on the island. Additionally, small-scale farmers, whose traditional farming practices resulted in a high degree of soil erosion and siltation, have been trained to make their farming practices more productive These practices are also helping farmers to avoid erosion and siltation, working to restore their land and improve water quality in the area.
The Maldives strengthened its capacity for protecting its freshwater lens, which is a vital and scarce freshwater source for the island population, by installing an integrated water supply system with rainwater harvesting and desalination and improving agricultural practices to prevent pollution from fertilizers. The successful IWRM demonstration, particularly its expected climate change adaptation benefits, catalysed further funding support from the Green Climate Fund to replicate the practice on more than 20 other islands.
Mauritius also strengthened its groundwater monitoring capacity to improve its conjunctive management of groundwater and surface water resource and to protect the Northern Aquifer from saltwater intrusion.
Through the combined efforts of these six SIDS, nearly 100,000 community members have already benefitted from improved water quality, which reduces poverty, improves health outcomes, facilitates climate change adaptation and mitigates the threat of natural and man-made hazards. IWRM demonstration projects in each country have also contributed to gender equality by acknowledging and reinforcing the role that women play in managing water and mainstreaming gender dimensions into wider project outputs.
Results from the IWRM demonstration activities were included in policy discussions at the national level to ensure that national policies would embrace the IWRM approach for sustainability. São Tomé and Príncipe has enacted its first Water Act, fully based on the IWRM approach. The Seychelles also developed a national water policy, a national IWRM plan, and a draft national water act to fully embrace IWRM principles in its national legal and institutional arrangement water management. In the Maldives, the Government’s cabinet developed and endorsed a national water and sewerage policy.
Sustainable Development Goal target(s): 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, 6.6, 6.a, 6.b
Countries / territories involved: Cabo Verde, Comoros, Maldives, Mauritius, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Seychelles
Supported by: GEF, UNDP, UNEP
Implementing entities: UNOPS, participating countries
Project status: Completed
Project period: 2012 – 2018
URL of the practice: http://aio-iwrm.org/
- Dr. Akiko Yamamoto, Regional Technical Advisor for Water and Ocean Governance, UNDP Regional Service Center for Africa, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Yegor Volovik, GEF Portfolio Manager, International Waters, UNEP email@example.com