Work visits on management, financing and stakeholder management in Eswatini

In May, there were no less than 3 work visits for Blue Deal Eswatini. On management, financing, and stakeholder management.

In Eswatini, water is becoming an increasingly vital resource. Climate change and a growing population demand careful management of surface and groundwater for agriculture (food security), drinking water, and energy.

Management Development trajectory

As part of the Management Development trajectory, a work visit was undertaken where one-on-one work was conducted between the Netherlands and Eswatini at the management and executive level with our direct partner organisation, the JRBA PB. Valuable steps were also taken with both the departing and the newly appointed board members.

Financing water management

During a work visit that focussed on financing, discussions were held on the successes, opportunities, and challenges of attracting external funds for the effective decentralisation of water management in the country.

Stakeholder management

During the third work visit, all key stakeholders in water management in Eswatini were consulted about their roles, tasks, and responsibilities, as there is confusion and associated tension due to overlaps and gaps. This is also aimed at bridging the current period during which the Water Act is being revised. Our aim is to work together with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy to develop better coordination and governance, ensuring that access to water for everyone in Eswatini is guaranteed in the future.

Blue Deal Eswatini in Germany

The work visit to the Netherlands of Blue Deal team from Eswatini in March was in a double transboundary setting this time. The partners from Eswatini kept passing borders. First from Eswatini to South Africa to the Netherlands, and then on to Germany for a 'Winter school'.

Winter school

The week of the Winter school started on Sunday afternoon with a preparatory meeting with 2 Swazi’s, 2 professors from the Rhein Waal University and 1 colleague from Dutch Water Authorities. Monday morning, the Winter school welcomed 20 students from all over the world: Albania, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Colombia, India, Pakistan, Cameroon, Kenya, Ghana, and of course from Germany.

The topics were developing inclusive water management in Eswatini, knowledge dissemination, and gender. At the beginning of the week experiences were shared on cultures in Eswatini and the various parts of the world. At the end of the week, the students were asked to come up with solutions to specific issues in Eswatini. An exciting and full week with insights from younger generations on inclusiveness, gender and not just water management.

Visit to the Netherlands

The following days were spent in the Netherlands with meetings at Dutch water authority Vechtstromen, where they met, among others, with the Dutch company Royal Eijkelkamp and the NWB Fund on the project carried out by the KIWI’s, participants of the Dutch learning programme for the Blue Deal. It meant one less border to pass for the partners from Eswatini before travelling back to southern Africa.

Blue Deal Regional Meeting Africa

From 7 to 10 July, a Regional Meeting will take place in Kenya, gathering Blue Deal partnerships from 7 countries. This event serves as a follow-up to the Blue Deal Congress held in Amsterdam in June 2023.

A workshop during the Blue Deal Congress, where the idea for the regional meeting originated

Topics in Amsterdam were, among others, water pricing and nature-based solutions. During the meetings in this congress week, mutual exchange proved promising on a number of water themes. One thing in particular was shared among the participants: to further deepen these initial contacts, and to share and learn from each other’s experiences. The result is the Blue Deal Regional Meeting in Kenya.

Countries and themes

Kenya, Ghana, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Eswatini have indicated that they will participate in July 2024 in this Regional Blue Deal Meeting. Blue Deal Kenya is gracious enough to host the event in Mombasa. The following 3 issues will be part of the exchange:

  1. Water pricing
  2. Funding for water projects
  3. Funding and governance for nature-based solutions

Advantages of exchange

The partnerships participating in the event foresee many advantages of the exchange:

  • Facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practices at the international level;
  • Discuss challenges of water management through intervision;
  • Explore the advantages of international cooperation;
  • Deepen and share insights on elevating the importance of water on the political agenda;
  • Strengthen the consortia of Blue Deal/Waterworx (a similar programme to the Blue Deal, initiated by the Dutch drinking water companies) and National Entities.

The regional meeting in Africa can also provide valuable input for the broader Blue Deal programme’s learning activities, such as the Communities of Practice.

Vechtstromen & Eswatini sign Phase 2 Blue Deal

Early November the agreement for collaboration was signed between the Netherlands and Eswatini to continue Blue Deal into Phase 2.

Ms. Dlamini (left) and Ms. Hemmers sign the agreement.

In Eswatini it was Ms. Hemmers, member of the executive board of Dutch water authority Vechtstromen, and Ms. Dlamini, Principle Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources & Energy, who placed their signatures on the document. “Collaboration in Eswatini starts with a smile and a good start is half the job, as we say in the Netherlands”, according to Ms Hemmers.

Blue Deal makes the wheel stronger

It is due to climate change that both countries have to deal with more and more similar problems such as drought, heavy rains, heatwaves and floods. Ms Hemmers: “Thanks to the Blue Deal we don’t have to reinvent the wheel over and over again. Instead, we are enabling each other and we are making the wheel stronger. We do this by learning from each other and creating new solutions together.”

5 catchment areas, 1 operational organisation

The Blue Deal project in Eswatini assists in the decentralisation of water resource management from the Ministry to the local water authorities. Eswatini has 5 river basins that each have their own boards. These 5 boards have decided to combine the work in one operational organisation for more efficiency and better effective execution of operations. This is the Joint River Basin Authorities Project Board and the direct partner of the Blue Deal cooperation.

Women & Youth in Water Resources Management in Eswatini

Almost 100 powerful youth and women with enthusiasm and tireless energy were ready to kick off the so-called 4th “Incomati Basin Women and Youth in Water” Conference in Eswatini, on November 6.

Minky Groenewald (Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs) was one of the top speakers.

Of course, men were welcome to join as well, and some did. The conference was filled with inspiring presentations and workshops about women and youth in water management, given with the greatest dedication and enthusiasm. Young Experts (Yeppers) from Eswatini, Mozambique and South Africa were present, as were water professionals from the so-called Dutch KIWI programme. The youth asked to be heard and work with them for a more sustainable future.

Mainstreaming youth and women in water

In many developing countries, woman are the de facto decision-makers in households. Including youth recognises their potential as change agents and future leaders who can bring innovative insights and technological advancements to address water challenges effectively.

Everybody in the room was aware to do their part in mainstreaming youth and women in effective water resource management. To share knowledge, experiences and best practices on transboundary water management. The week was further dedicated to strengthen the capacity of exciting governance structures, whiles bringing to the fore crosscutting issues, such as gender mainstreaming in the sector. The latter is specific to the women and youth in water, groups which are often marginalised and under-represented in water related discussions and operations.


The platform of the conference aims to advocate for women and youth inclusion in equal opportunities for effective leadership in the management of water resources. Empowerment starts with education and conferences such as these, which help share important information that can empower women and break societal injustices. The conference highlighted the challenges faced in Eswatini and the opportunities women and youth could participate in.


One of the barriers that affect women and youth participation in the water sector is that there are not enough water programmes in local institutions. Young people have to go to institutions that are out of the country. And that becomes more expensive, yet there is a need for specialised education in the water sector.

Water policies affect women and youth more severely

Important is to strengthen collaborations between youth and decision-makers in the water sector. This way, policies made in the country can be relevant and address the needs of young people and women on the ground. Because these policies actually affect these groups more severely if not addressed properly. Water in Africa is often a women’s business. On this November 6, it became everybody’s business in Africa and in Europe.

7th REMCO conference in Eswatini: transboundary cooperation is a must

From November 6 to 10, more than 200 water managers and water loving professionals gathered in Mbabane, Eswatini, to attend the 7th edition of the REMCO conference. And for the first time, it was hosted by the Joint River Basin Authorities together with Blue Deal Eswatini.

REMCO stands for River and Environmental Management Cooperation. It is a conference that is held every 2 years in one of the 3 Blue Deal countries in southern Africa: Eswatini, Mozambique and South Africa. These countries share the Maputo and Inkomati river basins. Climate change impacts the region through the greater frequency and severity of floods and droughts. In order to meet these growing challenges, transboundary cooperation is a must.

Sharing knowledge

Water professionals, researchers, policymakers, stakeholders from the Incomati and Maputo River basins and partners from 7 countries, European and African, were all present. They exchanged ideas, talked about innovations and discussed past, present and future challenges in water management. This conference had a focus on improving collaboration on operational water management challenges. Topics discussed included:

  • the participation of women and youth
  • data management and exchange
  • and the importance of water for a growing economy and vibrant communities (agriculture, tourism, industry, energy, etc).

The Blue Deal teams of all 3 countries participated. Representatives of Dutch Water Authorities were present to support, learn and discuss. Dutch Professor Herman Havekes gave a presentation on Dutch water governance. Other Dutch colleagues shared their experience and knowledge as to how transboundary water management with Germany and Belgium is important for the Netherlands as well.

Keynote from Ministry

Welcome remarks were delivered by each country. The keynote speech and official opening of the REMCO conference was done by host country Eswatini. Ms Dorcas Dlamini spoke warm words as Principle Secretary of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy. On behalf of the European participants, Ms Ellen Hemmers, head of the delegation from Dutch Water Authorities and Executive Board member of Dutch water authority Vechtstromen, shared the welcome and high expectations for the coming days.

National elections

During the week the results of the national elections in Eswatini became clear. Ms Ellen Hemmers congratulated the newly appointed Prime Minister Russel Dlamini, saying that she understands that the Prime Minister was well versed in issues of water and the importance of sustainable water management. The week after, the JRBA and Waterschap Vechtstromen congratulated the new Minister HRH Prince Lonkhokhelo with his appointment to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy which includes water resource management.

Next location: Mozambique

The last day of the conference is always set aside for a field trip. Tourism was included this year as a topic for both opportunities and sustainable water management. Delegates travelled to the cultural village of Mantenga. However, for those who had missed water after 4 days of inside conference, there was a water option to visit Maguga Dam in Eswatini. The next REMCO will be in 2 years in Mozambique as the previous was 2 years ago in South Africa.

Management 4 largest Blue Deal partnerships exchanges knowledge

On September 7, the Dutch management of the 4 largest Blue Deal partnerships came together in the Dutch province Fryslân for a meeting. The objective for this gathering was: how can we learn from each other about managing large partnerships?

The meeting was amongst the partnerships of Mozambique, Colombia, Eswatini and South Africa. The managers were invited to Friesland, at the invitation of the partnership manager of Mozambique, of which Wetterskip Fryslân (the Dutch water authority in the area of Fryslân) is the lead partner. This was the third time that the major partnerships organized such a consultation. This time was extra special, thanks to a boat trip through the beautiful Alde Feanen nature reserve.

Topics to discuss

The colleagues exchanged, for example, their experiences with working with a so-called ‘talking sheet’. This sheets makes it visible which Blue Deal topics the partnership is working on, and where there are topics that still need to be addressed. “It helps to establish a relationship of the concrete activities which are implemented with the longer-term goals,” says one of the participants. “Large partnerships deal with many people and interests. Visualising this helps to get an overview of how all our activities contribute to our larger goals, and what we should continue or stop.”

The participants also discussed, among other things, their annual plans for 2024, presented to each other how they have organised their partnerships and discussed decentralization in one of the partner countries. They also covered the safety assessments of work visits, finances, accountability, and much more.

Learning from each other

An important part of the Blue Deal is learning from each other. Therefore, the Blue Deal learning programme also includes a training for new partnership managers. Thanks to this joint intervision of the partnership managers, the 4 largest partnerships are now going one step further to exchange knowledge with each other.

Yepper Gcinile Dlamini at UN Water Conference: “Support local teams”

Gcinile Dlamini is one of the Young Experts of the Blue Deal programme in Eswatini. She was part of the Blue Deal delegation that went to the UN Water Conference 2023 that took place from March 22 until March 24. “Sometimes it just takes one person taking responsibility, even if it is attending to minor issues. And when the next person is doing the same, then we can actually achieve something bigger.”

The conference was co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands. It was the first time in 46 years that the UN convened a Water Conference to raise attention to water. The Blue Deal went there with a delegation. Dlamini was invited to join, to be the voice of the youth for the Blue Deal.

What was it like to go to the UN Water Conference?

“The UN Water Conference really inspired me, it was amazing to be part of something that big. Usually, when we see problems around us that are as overwhelming as the water crisis, it’s easy to push the responsibility to take action and think: it’s not my job, it’s not my baby to care for. The problems we face with water every day, you think that as an individual there’s nothing you can do. But going to the conference… there was the urge and encouragement to do something. To think about: what can we do, how can we change the situation?”

“Sometimes it just takes one person taking responsibility, even if it is attending to minor issues. And when the next person is doing the same, then we can actually achieve something bigger. It doesn’t take rocket science to solve the issues in the water sector.”

What was most inspiring to you?

“The youth. They had fire, they want to be involved. They want to do the work. They are actually taking the initiative, they did not sit back and wait to be called to the table. It was amazing to see that. I’m not used to seeing young people do that. Because youth unemployment is so high in Eswatini, usually we just want to get a job and make a living. Things like water youth parliaments, we don’t have that in our country.”

What are you going to do with what you learned at the conference?

“I want to get together a group in my country in the water sector, a platform for the youth. I want people to talk about these issues, so they can be addressed.”
“And I also want to be the inspiration in my work team. I work for a government in a developing country. And there’s always lack of resources. So it’s easy to make an excuse, to not do anything. There’s always something missing to be efficient. But going to the UN motivated me. Sometimes we don’t have the resources, but we do make a difference.”
“When you think no one is supporting you, you lose the zeal to continue working. It is collaborations and partnerships, such as the one my country (the Joint River Basin Authorities-Project Board) has with the Blue Deal, that help us continue to carry out our mandate of managing water resources. During the UN Water Conference the Blue Deal team members made it their priority to ask for assistance and support for local water authorities. So we are not alone. I need to be the voice that reminds my work team that we are doing a great job and that we have the support we need to keep going.”

You also spoke as a panellist during one event. What was your message?

“I was a panellist during the event: ‘Forget about SDG6 without strong water management organizations’. This event was collaboratively organised by WaterWorX, German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), Blue Deal and UNGWOPA. My message was that if we don’t work on supporting local water authorities, then we won’t achieve the SDGs. We, as local teams, are the people who deal directly with water issues. If we are not strengthened, in terms of skills and finances, how are we going to achieve the goals? The focus has to start from the ground up. And then, maybe, there will be a difference.”

How was it for you personally to join the conference?

“It was a great opportunity for me. And I met so many interesting people that I want to keep sharing knowledge and ideas with. Speaking at the event really helped me with my confidence. It’s nice to be heard, even if maybe what you shared is not immediately addressed but it’s no longer on your shoulders alone. It makes everything better.”

“Everyone was popping with ideas. Everyone wanted to figure out how to address this water crisis. No one was sitting back and watching. It was amazing to have everyone stand up for water.”

Ministry of eSwatini visits the Netherlands

At the beginning of March, the Principal Secretary and the Director of the Department of Water Affairs of the Ministry of Natural Resources & Energy from eSwatini visited the Netherlands. They were joined by the CEO of JRBA, partner organization of the Blue Deal in eSwatini. The visit focused on multi-layer governance of Dutch water management.

The 3 visitors from Swazi had many good and enlightening conversations, such as with Martien Beek (in the middle of photo) from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.

During the week, there were discussions with the Executive Board and the management of the Dutch water Authority Vechtstromen. There was also a field visit to the cross-border agency GPRW, which led the Swazis to Germany 3 times in 1 day.

The Hague was of course also an important part of the programme, with a visit to the Association of Dutch Water Authorities, the Delta Commission, the Waddenzee Authority, the Dutch water authority Rijnland. Also, at the province of South Holland, the Swazi’s saw Dutch democracy in action because the Provincial Executive was in session.

3 countries meet for regional knowledge exchange

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 joint regional Blue Deal exchange meeting in Johannesburg. Here they discussed the issues regarding data management of water data.

Similar challenges

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.”

Lessons learnt

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.

Different perspectives

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.