The degradation of Sahelian wetlands leads to water and food scarcity and further land degradation and can affect the social, economic and political stability of the region. It can also be one of the drivers of out-migration and create conflicts over access to land and water. Good management of natural resources is key to resolve conflicts within and among different user groups such as herders, farmers and fishers to prevent violence within communities and foster peaceful, inclusive societies.
Wetlands International European Association’s EDD lab session on 19th June aimed at raising awareness on the complex water and security risks in the Sahel region, by inviting outstanding speakers to discuss the topic from different perspectives.
Mali was chosen as a case study, due to increasing water insecurity around Africa’s second largest wetland area, the Inner Niger Delta. This important wetlands is shrinking and affecting all communities relying on it to survive, leading to armed conflicts between farmers, pastoralists and fishers. Water insecurity is also a result of mismanagement of water resources and wrong investments.
Climate change is also negatively impacting water availability. According to Yamide Dagnet, Senior Associate for the World Resources Institute, climate change is exacerbating water risks, and they should both be regarded as the root causes of conflict, human insecurity and human displacement. What is required is a more holistic policy approach, but looking at a multi-stakeholder approach like the private public partnership of Water Peace and Security partnership.
Preventing water-related conflicts can be addressed by implementing greater community involvement in finding sustainable solutions, stated Karounga Keita, Director of the Sahel Office of Wetlands International in Mali. Dr Keita shared his experience in fostering dialogue among different groups and how encouraging for diplomatic solutions is working instead of military and top-down approaches.
The EU is working to enhance EU diplomatic engagement about water as a tool for peace, security and stability, and firmly condemns the use of water as a weapon of war. Carmen Marquez Ruiz Policy Coordinator Environment & Water, Global 2/ Global and Economic issues, EEAS underlined this effort and shared different recently approved positions of the EU with regard to water and the importance of transboundary cooperation for peace. Again the request for a holistic approach linking development and security was raised.
The last two speakers brought the perspective of rural development in to the debate. To Hans-Harald Jahn, department of Agribusiness in rural Development of the EIB, the problem is in wrong investments choices and mismanagement of water and soil. Future solutions should involve financing research into new seed varieties, cropping patterns and adaption projects. Leonard Mizzi, Head of Unit C1, DEVCO, stressed the increasing food crisis was due to conflict insecurity, climate changes, and disasters. He underlined rural revitalization policy as a resilient action plan that considers water stress and water availability in the context of links between rural and urban pressures. He invited for applying a more landscape approach.
Landry Wendsomdé Ouangre, Water aid Burkina Faso, was invited to comment by sharing the involvement of community participation in their water management project, aiming to increase the capacity of communities in remote areas in Ghana, Mali, Niger and Burkino Faso. They do this by training people to use simple, affordable tools to monitor the water resources so they can make informed decisions relating to the usage of water. They link communities with local authorities to share their findings.
What is the key message we can take home from this event?
Combine traditional governance and innovation, as well as involving civil society and local communities as a means to find a middle ground which is key in finding solutions to the problem. There needs to be better management of natural resources to resolve conflicts and growing water insecurity.
Summary of the session Summary-EDD19-Lab-Debate.pdf
A special thank you to our intern Francesca Oakley to help us with the news and summary
Video and PPT used during the event:
Connecting wetlands to human security in Mali https://youtu.be/uvSyQFLwloY
Yamide Dagnet , WRI 1.-Presentation-Yamide-Dagnet-EDDs.pdf
Carmen Marquez Ruiz, EEAS EDD19-Water-Peace-and-Security-in-the-Sahel-EU-water-Diplomacy.pdf
The event was recorded and web-streamed. Below the links.