Chrispinus Omar NAIROBI, (Xinhua) --
African experts on Tuesday called for concerted efforts to
ensure sustainable development, peace and stability in the Horn
of Africa region to address water stress.
Policy makers, scientists and
researchers attending a water dialogue forum in Nairobi said
water insecurity might worsen civil disorder, poverty and
marginalization in the Horn of Africa.
Inter-Governmental Authority on
Development (IGAD) Executive Secretary Mahboub Maalim said the
Horn of African states will foster knowledge sharing to enhance
“This region has endured
acute water stress for too long and countries have resolved to
address the root cause of this challenge. Sustainable
management of water resources is a collective responsibility,”
Maalim told Xinhua on the sidelines the forum.
He said countries in the Horn
of Africa region have drawn lessons from the devastating famine
of 2011 to invest in deterrent measures like water harvesting,
storage and climate resilient agro- pastoralism.
Maalim said improved governance
on trans-boundary water bodies will enhance food and energy
security alongside regional trade.
“Water security has gained
traction within the political establishment in the region.
Governments are convinced the resource under-pins sustainable
development and lasting peace,” he said.
The Horn of Africa region has
one of the lowest human development indicators thanks to
climatic shocks, conflicts and infrastructure gaps.
Eric Odada, a member of the
United Nations Secretary General Advisory Board on Water and
Sanitation, noted the Horn of Africa has lagged in all the
millennium development goals.
“Fresh water resources are
distributed unevenly in the Horn of Africa while their
governance has many loopholes. Pollution and siltation are
major threats to water resources in the region,” Odada said.
Climatic shocks have
intensified in the Horn of Africa region, yet countries have not
scaled up investments in adaptation and mitigation projects.
Odada noted that local
communities are ill-prepared to cope with recurrent droughts,
floods and spread of communicable diseases.
“Desertification and loss of
vital habitats has worsened in the Horn of Africa due to
climate change. Human induced threats to water resources
include population pressure and over-abstraction by
industries,” Odada said.
Horn of Africa states have
endorsed the Africa water vision 2025 that roots for equity and
sustainable management of the resource to enhance regional
Odada stressed that improved
governance, dialogue and adoption of green technologies will
boost water security in the region.
“There is need for sound
policies and laws to strengthen the water-food-energy nexus.
Countries should encourage public private partnerships to
promote water use efficiency,” Odada told Xinhua, adding that
regional cooperation and political dialogue are key to
strengthen equitable sharing of fresh water resources in the
Horn of Africa.
John Nyaoro, Executive Director
with Nile Basin Initiative, also said water cooperation will
help address conflicts and under- development in the region.
“An estimated 50 percent of
water resources in this region are shared, and therefore we
must establish an institutional framework to strengthen their
management,” Nyaoro said.
He said the eight IGAD member
states have initiated projects to promote conservation of
freshwater resources in the face of serious threats.
Fred Mwango, a Water Resources
Specialist at IGAD, said countries have shared expertise and
best practices to achieve water security.
“Water is the backbone of our
economies and has a direct bearing on regional security and
peace. The resource should be at the center-stage of regional
development priorities,” Mwango said, adding that the Horn of
African states should borrow lessons from river basin
organizations to establish robust policy, legal and
institutional frameworks to enhance conservation of
“Horn of African countries
should harmonize policy and legal instruments to promote
conservation of inland waters and aquifers, “ said Aruwa
Bendsen, Program Officer with UNEP’s Freshwater Ecosystems
Unit, urging regional bodies to prioritize water cooperation
to reduce conflicts.