Responding to crisis: collaborative efforts for flood disaster relief in Eastern Africa

Parts of Eastern Africa are being hit by floods caused by heavy rainfall. Unfortunately, this has already claimed many lives. This includes Kenya, where the Blue Deal has a partnership.

Picture by Hansel Ohioma

Blue Deal Kenya, together with partner Embassy of the Earth, has been exploring ways to support the government’s ambitious plans to clean up Nairobi rivers for quite some time. The water has now demonstrated that the problem is much larger than pollution alone. Large areas of informal settlements have been flooded, as well as newly built residential areas elsewhere in the city and, for example, the airport. Tens of thousands of people have lost their homes and possessions.

Government response and evacuation efforts

The government has established a Special Cabinet with a mandate to evacuate everyone in areas at risk, downstream from dams and riverbank zones. In the Thika Basin, where the Blue Deal programme and the Njururi Initiative are ongoing, with many dams for drinking water and irrigation, there is considerable disruption, and a landslide has claimed several lives.

Several more weeks of heavy rains are anticipated across the country. In Nairobi, our partner Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC) is doing what they can to remove any blockages in the sewage system. Our partner Water Resources Authority (WRA) is busy marking the flood line of various rivers in Nairobi and other affected areas, including the Tana Basin, where the Blue Deal is also active, and WRA is involved in evacuating people from these river zones. Dams are also being inspected; many dams are at full capacity, and the persistent rainfall also poses risks of dam breaches or severe flooding.

Community initiatives: Blue Angels

Over the past months, in addition to government agencies, we have also worked extensively with local community organisations in Nairobi  – various groups, mostly comprised of young people, who have been dedicated to river restoration through waste management, park construction, etc. These groups are informally united as the Blue Angels and are crucial as first responders in the current crisis.

Long-term solutions and engagement with (inter)national authorities

The Blue Deal continues to engage with the national government to provide support for the long-term future of Nairobi. It is possible that during this crisis period, the deployment of the Dutch Disaster Risk Reduction and Surge Support (DRRS) may also be requested, for which we are coordinating with RVO and the Dutch embassy.

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.

Investment mobilisation in the Kenyan water sector: the Njururi fund

That a lot of extra investment is necessary to achieve SDG6 is an understatement. According to the World Bank, an additional 116 billion USD is needed annually for constructing new infrastructure to achieve SDG6 by 2030. Kenya needs an additional 4 billion USD to achieve clean water and sanitation for all Kenyans. So, in 2024, investment mobilisation is one of the primary areas of focus for the Blue Deal team in Kenya.

One of the relevant areas for the Blue Deal partnership is the Thika river basin. It is one of the main sources of water for Nairobi, Kenya’s fast-growing capital, and water quality and quantity has deteriorated over the past decades. Relevant authorities and communities often lack funds, capacity, and stakeholder input to address these issues. There is a need for unprecedented collaboration.

Bring Njururi back

An example of this collaboration happened in April 2023. World Waternet in partnership with Embassy of the Earth, facilitated the Thika River Basin Ecosystem Future Design Basecamp. This was funded by the NWB Fund and through existing Blue Deal and WaterWorX partnerships, which set the stage for a revolutionary approach to ecosystem restoration and water management in Kenya. Participants, including representatives from the public and private sectors, Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company, and the Water Resources Authority, as well as local communities, shared their ideas on the future of the basin and developed action plans aiming to achieve their most desirable future in 2033. The mission: to bring the Njururi (a water beetle) back to the river.

Participants now decided on the development of a so-called matrix organisation, designed to foster open communication, interdisciplinary collaboration, and a dynamic, open-system approach. The “Matrix Organisation” will be able to implement the initial action plans and to actively adapt to future changes in the turbulent environment they operate in. The design principle is: “Put responsibility for control and coordination at the level where the work is done.”

Njururi Fund

At its heart is the creation of the Njururi Fund, a novel funding mechanism to support seed initiatives focused on revitalising the basin’s ecosystems. This approach involves key actors, private, public and government, contributing seed money – 60% from standing organisations and 40% from external funders. With continued support of the NWB Fund, this Njururi Fund will enter its first stage operationalising the Matrix Organisation through collectively financing and implementing the first 5 seed initiatives. These are implemented by each of the 5 taskforces around water quality and quantity, biodiversity, conservation, recreation, and policy.

Much work lies ahead, and these initiatives alone will not be capable of covering the whole finance gap in the Kenyan water sector. But exploring the potential of this novel approach and engaging with such a wide variety of stakeholders and mobilising new investments in the process, might inspire those working on SDG6, not only in Kenya, but all over the world.

Article written by Jakob Ollivier de Leth (World Waternet).

Blue Deal session about Social inclusion in IWRM

On September 12, the Blue Deal presented a session during Partners for Water's Day ‘Social Inclusion in Water Climate Adaptation – making a Transformation’ in Utrecht.

“We need to bend the beam of observation upon ourselves”, says Martin Kalungu-Banda of the Ubuntu.Lab institute, one of the speakers during the plenary programme. Are we always doing as well as we think we do or should we sometimes look at ourselves more critically? The room is full of people from the water sector, from NGOs and organizations such as the Blue Deal. All with the beautiful intention of supporting others worldwide. But this requires that we work on the right things and especially with the people involved. “We’re trying to help, but we forget to listen,” notes one of the participants of the day.

Within the Blue Deal we try to do this through stakeholder participation. During the session ‘Working bottom up in Integrated Water Resources Management: how to implement an Area Oriented Approach to maximize sustainability and inclusiveness’, about 20 people from different organizations were present and 3 examples from the Blue Deal were discussed.

Communities map top 10 issues

Priscilla Daddah, Young Expert for the Blue Deal partnership in Ghana, explains during the session how the partnership involved stakeholders by working with 3 communities to map the top 10 issues for the Lower Volta Songor region. They also jointly drew up a Community-based Resource Management Plan (CREMA).

Using traditional tribal hierarchy

Bertho Bulthuis, water expert from the Blue Deal partnership in Burkina Faso, explains how they use the traditional tribal hierarchy within his partnership. “This is an already existing structure, able to connect people in the communities.” Of course, there are also disadvantages to this, Bulthuis admits. Because these structures do not represent everyone either. Another challenge he mentions is that many people in the area cannot always focus on anything else besides their daily needs. “It’s not always easy to look towards the future to things like climate mitigation and adaptation, when you are struggling for daily needs, like food for the day.”

Future base camp

Tanah Meijers, from the Blue Deal partnership in Kenya, talks about the ‘Bring Njururi back to the river’ project. This project is about restoring the water beetle (Njururi) to the Thika river in Upper Tana, Kenya. The water beetle symbolizes good water quality and a healthy ecosystem.

Stakeholder participation also plays a major role in this project. For this purpose, the team organized a so-called future base camp. About 120 people from various social groups and organizations in the area came together for a few days of camping. Together they thought about how they would like to shape the future in their region and how they could achieve this. Meijers: “We were looking for common ground, because everybody is part of the solution. Together, we drew a map. What is happening today? What are the challenges we face? And what do we need to do to get the water beetle back?”


After the presentations of the case studies, participants of the Blue Deal session discussed in 3 groups about how to scale an inclusive sustainable bottom-up approach on IWRM: how to implement a jointly drafted sub-catchment plan and maximise sustainability and inclusiveness? Below some of the discussion outcomes:

  • Formalisation of the effort of local organisations is necessary (mandate/ status);
  • Make use of current systems of formalised governments;
  • As soon as you scale up, the balance between bottom-up and top-down can get lost, it is a battle to fight for the rights in a bottom-up approach. Be aware of these issues;
  • There will be a political battle/competition about livelihood needs and less on water needs when you scale up. Be aware of these aspects;
  • Choose your local champions to scale your approach;
  • Keep reflecting: is everyone really included?
  • Clear benefits and responsibilities are necessary to get everyone on board;
  • Realisation of the needs: analyse the needs in an area thoroughly;
  • These processes take time. Spend time on raising awareness in your project

Get in touch

Want to know more about the outcomes of these 3 cases? Reach out to to get in touch with one of the speakers.

Lecture: solutions for complex water problems

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.

Study: water management knowledge exchange

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.

Meeting room with people seated at tables for a traning session. One man is stood, giving a presentation.
Dutch Water Authorities and local partners attending a training session.

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.

More on Dutch Water Authorities and knowledge exchange

Blue Deal Annual plan 2021

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.

Two men inspecting a waste water treatment plant.

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.

Online learning

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.

More on the Blue Deal