The water challenges in Southern Africa are immense. Floodings, droughts; water and climate related disasters always seem to be just around the corner. On November 25, the Blue Deal partnerships of eSwatini, Mozambique and South Africa joined forces in the first joined regional Blue Deal exchange meeting in Johannesburg. Here they discussed the issues regarding data management of water data.
The 3 countries face similar challenges: how to ensure financial stability? How can data sharing within and between countries be improved? And many technical hurdles, for example how to integrate the now often still separate data systems? As Ntombikayise Dhladhla, participant of the Blue Deal Young Expert Programme, explained: “In eSwatini, the main issues are reliability of the data, which leads to limited data sharing. We are working in silos.”
During the day the Blue Deal teams of the 3 countries looked back on Phase 1 of the Blue Deal. Experiences and lessons learnt were shared. Looking to the future, people shared their ideas on which topics the partnerships can work together. Ideas included working together on a central database, organizing shared lab facilities and connecting existing databases.
Ambassador Han Peters mentioned the importance of long-term equal partnerships, which are the basis for the Blue Deal: “No one country can solve the problems of today on their own. You need different perspectives, you need people from different backgrounds if you want to get to the greatest solutions.” And with this first regional meeting of 3 Blue Deal partnerships, a strong start has been made.
At the beginning of September, Nettie Aarnink, member of the executive board at the Dutch water authority Vechtstromen, visited eSwatini. The most important part of this work visit was the visit to "the honorable Minister Mabuza" of the Ministry of Natural Resources & Energy. During this visit they made agreements about the role and input of the national government for the next phase of the Blue Deal partnership.
Agreements have been made about the personnel and financial input that the national government will provide in eSwatini. Agreements have also been made to support one of the most important processes for the further decentralization of water management in Eswatini. The visit and speeches of Mabuza and Aarnink received a lot attention on television and in the newspapers.
Another important part of this work visit was to contribute to the gender workshop for the Joint River Basin Authorities (JRBA) and the main partner organizations of the JRBA. As in the Netherlands, there are fewer women than men active in the water sector in eSwatini. But there is an important difference: much more than in the Netherlands, the work of the water authorities has a direct influence on the lives and futures of girls and women.
Often it is the girls who have to fetch water for the family. A great deal of time is lost when the distance between the water well and the home is increased. For girls, this is at the expense of school time, sometimes girls are no longer able to go to school. In addition, it is often the women who grow the crops for their own family. Good water management is of vital importance to them. Hence the focus on gender. Aarnink contributed to this by sharing her experiences in the Netherlands and in other African countries and by talking to the board members of the JRBA.
UNDP, European Union delegation and WaterAid
Finally, visits were also made to the UNDP, the European Union delegation in eSwatini and to WaterAid. These organizations are already involved and the Blue Deal would like to connect them (even) more to the activities in eSwatini. All in all, a very useful work visit that will have an impact on the cooperation within the Blue Deal partnership.
Regional water managers in the Netherlands, Germany, eSwatini, Mozambique and South Africa have been sharing experiences for ten years now. What binds them is how you work together in border regions.
From 17-19 November, the lustrum took place at the River and Environmental Management Cooperation in South Africa. Problems such as drought, flooding, climate change and women empowerment were discussed. The Deputy Minister of South Africa endorsed the importance of seeking solutions in the Blue Deal partnerships.
After five years of hard work, the Blue Deal partners in eSwatini launched an umbrella organisation for water authorities on 10th November with a festive African ceremony.
Among others, Peter Bhembe, Minister of Natural Resources & Energy and ambassador of the Blue Deal was present. Prior to his speech, the minister noted that water is a women’s issue in Africa. He was referring to adding more women to the boards of water authorities and to the fact that it is women who fetch water.
The KIWI learning programme recently organised a lecture by professor Guy Alaerts about the unruly nature of international water management and solutions for complex water problems.
Water managers worldwide are looking for integrated solutions for complex water problems. Major investments are often required to become climate proof, but finding financing is difficult. Water managers and financial institutions do not know where to find each other and converting globally available financing into concrete projects on a large scale is difficult. Watch the lecture below. The lecture is in Dutch, but can be viewed with subtitles.
TU Delft and Erasmus University, in collaboration with Dutch Water Authorities, have launched a study into water management knowledge exchange. The universities are investigating which lessons the Dutch regional water authorities take abroad.
As part of the study into water management knowledge exchange university researchers are looking at the lessons learned at an individual level, group level and organisational level. The aim is to find out exactly what effect these lessons have on organisations.
A questionnaire is sent out via the Dutch Water Authorities foreign coordinators. It is hoped that insight can be gained into the possibilities and limiting factors of international knowledge sharing.
The 2021 annual plan of the Blue Deal programme has been approved by the steering committee. The partnerships will continue their work in 2021 to improve water management in 14 countries.
The focus of the Blue Deal Annual plan 2021 is on three crucial elements: sufficient knowledge and skills, a well-functioning organisation and collaboration with key stakeholders.
As COVID-19 continues into 2021, the Blue Deal partnerships focus on online learning and training in the first six months. This is not easy in all countries, for example due to slow internet connections or recently initiated partnerships. Therefore, the partnerships also focus on additional local representation. Dutch Water Authorities hopes to physically meet its partners again in the second half of 2021.