Accessing and managing groundwater resources in the Sahel Region: The innovative approach proposed by the More Water for Sahel

Established in April 2018 by Emmanuel de Romémont with the support of recognized experts and personalities, the More Water for Sahel Initiative brings a new, promising and incontestably hopeful answer to the problematic of the access to water in the Sahelian zone, particularly through its ability to combine several intervention levels (politico-strategic, international, regional, local, etc.) and to work on several scales (spatial and temporal in particular).

Access to natural resources and more specifically water is a serious matter of long-lasting tensions and conflicts in the Sahel region. In addition, groundwater resources (in Sahel most of the water resource is groundwater) are scheduled to shrink in the coming decade as a result of the climate change. Consequently, more people are likely to be exposed to water shortage, to the spread of vicious circle encompassing instability, insecurity, radicalisation, trafficking and smugglings, terrorism, and migrations (internal & towards Europe).

MW4S is advocating for a more inclusive and open-plan approach regarding the access to water which is detailed in the attached paper (in French) published in the Géologues journal. The central idea is that science is a source of progress and can, even at a distance, make a decisive contribution to knowledge and management of groundwater resources. Corollary: we must now think differently about the design, coordination (upstream in particular) and more generally the governance of water projects (hence the notion of small project area teams but able to play a real role of integrating architects). On a more political level MW4S’s assessment is this raising interest to groundwater issues should be translated into clear priorities for the Sahel countries, EU & the EU Member States and other relevant stakeholders to promote tangible changes in this sensitive region and enjoy political gains in return, taking into account that solutions do exist.

Based on our analysis, there is indeed a clear need for:

  • Developing multidisciplinary approaches,
  • Integrating multiple high-level skills,
  • Promoting a dynamic of change and decompart mentalization in the identification and management of water resources in the Sahel,
  • Facilitating the convergence of knowledge and their appropriation by national actors

    We therefore consider that the actions to be led in the Sahelian zone should be based on permanent synergies within three complementary key components: Knowledge, Education and Governance and that they should be aiming at ensuring the primacy of scientific analysis and a sustainable development.

MW4S approach can be summarized by the following elements:

  • Highlighted during the Paris Peace Forum 2018, the MW4S method is characterized by an art to plan and coordinate all relevant actions;
  • This convergence is indeed achieved by integrating all the actions envisaged within the framework of “Water Peace Operations” combining the planning and implementation dimensions;
  • To this end, it is proposed, under the direction of relevant local authorities, to capitalize on a precise analysis of critical spots (areas of about 5000 to 10 000 km2, characterized by an insufficient amount of available water), using the methodology proposed by MW4S;
  • It is then suggested to structure the implementation in a given “project area” (10,000 km2 to 500,000 km2)

• Investment and proven development in a new profession that has not been exercised until now: general coordination and integration of water projects.

Based on scientific truth and a long-term vision, this effort of shared knowledge will offer, especially in the most arid and less secure areas of the Sahel, new and positive perspectives in terms of living conditions, agricultural and more generally economic development. It will allow the appropriation of all these subjects by the countries concerned. That is the reason why we strongly emphasize the “Education” component.

By orchestrating the actions carried out in the various targeted areas and over all time horizons, MW4S effort makes it possible to put science at the service of the most exposed populations and to contribute to the stability and security of the areas concerned. By bringing more stability in the region, we indeed pave the way to reducing funding in the field of security issues as well as border protection, and gradually focusing more on development issues.

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