World Water Day Interview with Francis Daniel Bougaire, Chief Water Policy and Strategy Development Officer at the African Water Facility

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Francis Daniel Bougaire is Chief Water Policy and Strategy Development Officer at the African Water Facility (AWF), a special fund hosted and administered by the African Development Bank. The AWF provides grants and technical assistance for the implementation of innovative projects within its domain. For Bougaire, promoting integrated water resources management (IWRM) is crucial for achieving inclusive, sustainable development.

What challenges does water represent, with its triple political, social and environmental aspects?

Humanity has to face several water-related challenges that affect food security, health, economic and social development and the sustainability of ecosystems in many places in the world. The importance and urgency of the challenges related to water security and sanitation, the sector's governance, the management of water resources, environmental protection, climate change and also their interactions with regional integration and especially cross-border water management, oblige the countries of Africa to take measures commensurate with the magnitude of the political, financial, socioeconomic and environmental issues at stake.

How do you take these three dimensions into account in your approach to the management of water resources?

Like nearly every national and international institution working in the water sector, the African Development Bank has opted, since 2000, for an integrated water resources management (IWRM) approach that takes account of all these dimensions. The concept of IWRM is a process that "promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems."

Water needs to be viewed as an economic, social and environmental good. Policies and guidelines on the management of water resources should be studied within an integrated framework. At the operational level of water project funding, for example, a situation report must be drawn up to cover every aspect (natural environment, socioeconomic, institutional, political, legal, technological, etc.) that has any impact on the water resources in question. The goal is to recommend integrated measures to effectively tackle water-related challenges and arrange for the water to contribute to inclusive, sustainable development and green growth.

Various AWF-funded projects apply IWRM, such as in Burundi, Senegal, Niger, Mauritania, Namibia, the International Commission for the Congo-Ubangi-Sangha Basin (CICOS) project, and the Integrated Watershed Management of Kinoun and Tende River Basins project in Kenya.

In your view, how can the impacts of climate change on water be reduced?

Climate change exacerbates water problems. It is likely to further increase climate variability and increase the extent and scale of extreme weather events – especially droughts and floods. It threatens development and the installation and upkeep of major water infrastructure. How, then can we reduce the impact on water resources? First and foremost, by factoring climate change into the design of any project, ensuring that local and international best practice is followed or enhanced when coordinating and preparing the documentation required for future investments: pre-feasibility and feasibility studies, social and environmental impact studies and every other document needed for a project to go ahead, from the very earliest stages of its life.

This is the course of action adopted by the AWF, as a project preparation fund. In September 2012, the AWF issued a call for project proposals for funding the preparation of investment projects on water and climate change. Since then, the AWF continues to support water resources development projects that integrate climate changes, including the Kikonge multi-purpose dam in Tanzania, the rehabilitation of the subsurface dam at Naré in Burkina Faso, the improvement of rainwater management in Cameroon, and the development of irrigation for small farms in Zambia.

The impacts of climate change are cross-cutting. Efforts to better manage and use water help mitigate these impacts or better organize resilience. Other measures such as adopting rules to safeguard the climate, building the capacity of every stakeholder, optimizing systems to collect and disseminate water-related data and the availability of financial resources to support climate related aspects of projects.

For more information about the Bank’s work in Water and Sanitation sector :

Water and Sanitation sector

African Water Facility (AWF)

Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI)