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.

The Water Governance Ladder: assessing progress of water governance in the Blue Deal

In Phase 2 of the Blue Deal, we've initiated a new method to gauge progress in water governance: the Water Governance Ladder. It involves self-assessment by the partnerships, allowing us to identify areas of advancement and where improvements are needed.

This new method is grounded in the OECD Principles of Water Governance. It provides insights into areas requiring improvement in water governance and Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). Simultaneously, it serves as a tool for partnerships to engage in discussions about existing challenges and to highlight areas of success. “An overview-generating tool,” as described by one of our partnership managers. It has also sparked meaningful discussions and insights at the partnership level.

Strengths

Upon reviewing the outcomes of this initial self-assessment at the complete Blue Deal programme level, we observe the following strengths:

  • Engaging stakeholders;
  • Task allocation, and clear roles and responsibilities.

Areas for Improvement

On average, Blue Deal partnerships perform least effectively in the following 3 areas:

  • Managing trade-offs (determining priorities for funding and decision-making processes);
  • Financing water;
  • Maintenance and management.

This knowledge provides valuable input for our learning program and program-level strategy.

World Water Day: 6th anniversary of Blue Deal

On March 22 it is World Water Day. This is always an extra special day for the Blue Deal. Today, we celebrate our anniversary! Because it all began on March 22, 2018.

People in Kenia 2022

And how far we have come, and at the same time: how much more we aim for! In our Phase 1 Report, we have summarised what we have achieved, what didn’t go so well, and where we can achieve even more success.

What was Phase 1?

In 2018 the official documents for the Blue Deal were signed and we started working on forming the partnerships. In 2019, the partnerships really started their work. Phase 1 is the period of 2019-2022.

What can we conclude from Phase 1?

  • The first success was evident from the size of our programme. We were supposed to start with 6 partnerships. Now we have 17!
  • The pandemic led to setbacks and delays. But it also brought some benefits. We became better at hybrid working, and the focus shifted away from mainly work visits. We also realised the importance of individuals being ‘on the ground’. Therefore, we have further invested in local capacity.
  • Our learning programme has been professionalised with, among other things, 6 Communities of Practice and regional meetings between partner countries. And, a Blue Deal YEP batch started in 2022, which allowed our partnerships to both accelerate their work as well as accelerate learning from each other.

Progress

Overall, we conclude that we have made significant progress, particularly in the area of knowledge exchange on specific water topics. Examples include trainings on wastewater treatment, working together on Water Allocation Plans, and setting up participative monitoring of water quality.

We have also worked on strengthening water institutions, for example in the area of water pricing, or in specifying roles and responsibilities within water authorities. In this area, we see progress, but naturally, these are slow processes. This is why it is so important that the Blue Deal is there for the long run. In terms of relational management, such as actively involving stakeholders, this is something that happens more and more in the areas where the Blue Deal works.

Onwards to clean, safe, and sufficient water for 20 million people around the world by 2030!

Social inclusion included in Blue Deal

The kick-off of the Blue Deal Community of Practice (CoP) Social Inclusion & Stakeholder Management took place on February 8. Online of course, so that colleagues from all partnerships worldwide could participate.

4 women are posing for the camera, 1 is carrying a basket full of plants on her head.

Social inclusion and climate adaptation are the 2 crosscutting themes for the Blue Deal. This means every partnership should include these topics in their annual plans. Social inclusion is also an important part of the Sustainable Development Goals, to which the Blue Deal contributes. With funding from the NWB Fund, a Focal Point for Social Inclusion for the Blue Deal is installed, together with a Leading Group, to help partnerships take social inclusion to a new level. The Focal Point and Leading Group are meant to take the topic social inclusion even further within the framework of the Blue Deal. One of their tasks will be to help the members of the CoP to learn more about social inclusion.

Catalyst for positive change

The session was presented by the chairs of the CoP: Tanah Meijers and Harmke Berghuis. During the session, there was an emphasis on social inclusion as a catalyst for positive change in addressing water related challenges. Action is needed to make use of the impact and power of diverse perspectives in problem solving.

What is social inclusion?

Social inclusion is a broad and contextual topic, for which many definitions are used. For the Blue Deal we look at it like this: Each individual has the ability, resources and opportunity to participate and influence. However, we should not dwell too much on semantics and definitions: this can paralyse efforts for positive impact in our partnerships. However, it makes to still have questions about what social inclusion is really about. The Focal Point (Tanah Meijers) and Leading Group are happy to think along and share thoughts with you.

Why is social inclusion important for water authorities?

Traditionally, within the water authorities, challenges in our field are often approached from a technical and practical standpoint. Water experts seek solutions, preferably as concrete as possible. However, we operate within a context that is highly complex. Focusing only on the technical solutions, can actually cause unanticipated impacts that can even disrupt the livelihoods of marginalised communities. When we look at the social ecosystem of which our projects are part, everyone has a piece of the puzzle that can solve the issues we are dealing with.

Chances and challenges

One of the participants mentioned the challenge that the communities they work with are often mainly concerned with their daily survival, instead of discussions about whether everyone is involved. While this can be a challenge, it can also be an opportunity. Because social inclusion is not so much about the discussion, but rather about the solution that works best for these communities. Other participants also mentioned challenges they faced. And that is exactly the reason for the CoP, the Focal Point and the Leading Group. Together we can identify these challenges and see how we can deal with them to increase the impact of our programme.

Of course there were also some inspiring examples of attempts to take steps in the field of social inclusion and socially inclusive stakeholder management. See some examples in this article.

Want to join?

This year, there will be 3 more CoP’s on social inclusion. The next will be on April 2, 14:00 – 15:30 CET via Teams. Want to join? Send an email to info@bluedeal.nl.

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).

First work visit of 2024 to Peru

In January, a Dutch team from Dutch Water Authorities visited the Blue Deal partnership in Peru. 3 main themes were the core of this first work visit of the year: climate adaptation, wastewater management, and data for water availability.

Climate adaptation

The Blue Deal Peru team from the 2 Dutch water authorities Wetterskip Fryslân and Noorderzijlvest visited the Casitas Bocapán creek in Tumbes and the proposed areas for a reforestation project. This is an initiative of the Regional government and the technical team of the Tumbes Water Council-ANA. We are looking forward to share expertise on the resilience and water components of the project.

In Piura, the mayor of Lagunas, one of the districts in Ayabaca province and initiator of the feasibility study for carbon credits project, and other involved stakeholders, renewed their commitments to work together this year under the support from the Chira-Piura Water Council. This feasibility study is financed by the NWB Fund.

Wastewater management

In both regions, Piura and Tumbes, we visited different wastewater treatment plants to see how wastewater techniques can be improved and to assess options for water reuse. In Piura, during the visit to the San Martin wastewater treatment plant and under the coordination of the Chira-Piura water council, we held a workshop to gather information from operators and managers about relevant themes for a tailor-made training to be executed this year.

Data for water availability

The Blue Deal Peru team from the 2 Dutch water authorities Hunze en Aa’s and Rivierenland, with the support of Deltares and our Young Experts from Piura and Tumbes, gave a training on the hydrological model W-flow. The training’s objective was to support local capacity generating data for water availability, and enhance interaction amongst organisations responsible for water management in the regions. The training was organised by the technical teams of the water councils of Tumbes and Chira-Piura. A primary exercise during the training involved modeling the Zarumilla River. Triggered by the training, the participants committed themselves to work together, sharing information in follow-up sessions and improving the model for their areas.

National and regional positioning of the partnership

Finally, the national and regional positioning of our partnership and the work with our local partners were also core activities of this first work visit. Our coordination team discussed in Lima the follow-up actions of our visit from last year with the Vice Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation and the General Manager of the National Water Authority (ANA).

We also visited the regional governors of Tumbes and Piura, explained our current projects and the potential themes for cooperation in both regions. With universities’ representatives from both regions, we discussed the next call for scholarships for young professionals. We finished this work visit presenting our project and exploring synergies for cooperation with the professionals of the ANA’s Direction of Water Resources Planning and Development.

Signing for Phase 2 of Blue Deal Partnership Mozambique

Dutch Water Authorities (DWA) and the Regional Water Administrations (ARAs) in Mozambique signed Phase 2 of the Blue Deal programme 2023 - 2030.

The memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were signed by Luzette Kroon, chair of the Blue Deal programme, alongside the directors of the 3 ARAs. The signing strengthens cooperation between the Netherlands and Mozambique in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), focusing on water quality, availability, flood and drought risk management, and climate change.

The MoUs signing ceremony was attended by Luzette Kroon, Geert-Jan ten Brink, president of the Dutch water authority Hunze en Aa’s, Ivo van Haren, the First Secretary for Water and Sanitation of the Dutch embassy in Mozambique, as well as the directors and technicians of the ARAs. During the ceremony, Kroon highlighted the challenges and successes of the first phase, including capacity building, staffing of the ARAs, and the development of hydrological models.

ARAs’ satisfaction and support

The ARAs expressed satisfaction with the progress of the partnership and confirmed their support for the shared goals and objectives. As key stakeholders in water resources management in Mozambique, they recognise the importance of continuous collaboration, planning, and communication for the success of Phase 2 of the Blue Deal partnership.

Cooperation with Dutch embassy and new IWRM programme

The ceremony also highlighted cooperation between the Blue Deal programme and the Dutch embassy in Mozambique, particularly through its new IWRM programme. As the second phase of the Blue Deal unfolds, the signing of the MoUs represents a significant milestone in strengthening cooperation between the Netherlands and Mozambique in the field of IWRM.

Insights from the visit

The ceremony took place during a work visit by a DWA delegation in January, providing insights into infrastructure management and activities of ARA Sul and the SASB. The delegation learned more about the activities being developed by these 2 partners with the support of the Blue Deal. After this visit, they gained a deeper understanding of the challenges and the measures undertaken for water quality control, flood and drought risk management, sanitation, and climate change adaptation.

DWA delegation visits Mozambique for the Blue Deal programme

In January 2024, a delegation from Dutch Water Authorities (DWA) visited Mozambique to witness the progress of the Blue Deal partnership in the country. This visit marked a crucial milestone in strengthening water management and climate change mitigation efforts in the country. By fostering partnerships and sharing knowledge, countries can work together to develop sustainable water management solutions for the benefit of present and future generations.

Visit to ARA Sul Infrastructures

On January 16, the delegation had the opportunity to explore the Goba telemetry station and the Pequenos Libombos Dam. The visit to these 2 infrastructures shed light on the challenges faced by ARA Sul when working with regional entities and the adjustments needed to respond to climate change.
The flaws in the regional agreements between Mozambique, Eswatini and South Africa, inconsistent data sharing (particularly during drought and rainy seasons), and limited resources were identified as primary hurdles towards sustainable water management in the region. It is evident that the Blue Deal programme’s support, alongside organisations and conferences such as REMCO and INMACOM, can play a pivotal role in strengthening the cooperation between the 3 countries and ensure reliable flood and drought risk management.

Visit to ARA Sul headquarters

On January 17, the DWA delegation engaged in a meeting with ARA Sul’s management team. This water authority is actively involved in various topics within the partnership, such as water quality management, flood risk management (including dike management and early warning systems), groundwater modelling, and licensing of water users. Through ARA Sul and the other partners, the Mozambican partnership draws attention to the need for proactive measures to mitigate the devastating impact of floods in the country.

Signing of MoUs

On January 18, the Mozambican partnership celebrated the signing of the Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) for Phase 2 of the Blue Deal programme. This MoU solidifies the commitment of all parties involved to continue working together towards water-related challenges and climate resilience.

Meeting with the Mozambican Minister of Public Works, Housing and Water Resources

In order to reinforce the Dutch support for Mozambique in water management, sanitation, and climate change issues, the DWA delegation had a meeting with the Mozambican Minister of Public Works, Housing and Water Resources (Carlos Mesquita), the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Mozambique (Elsbeth Akkerman), and the First Secretary for Water and Sanitation of the Dutch embassy in Mozambique (Ivo van Haren). This meeting highlighted the shared vision of both nations in addressing critical water management issues and reaffirmed the Dutch commitment to provide technical expertise, financial aid, and capacity-building support to Mozambique.

Impact of climate change and sea level rise in Beira

The delegation’s work visit concluded with their travel to Beira, where they worked with the Municipality of Beira. Through the SASB (Beira Autonomous Sanitation Service), the partnership is assisting the Municipality of Beira in addressing issues concerning the operation and maintenance of the drainage system and cleaning of the urban canals. These actions are of great importance at a time in which the city is severely affected by the impacts of climate change and sea level rise.

The Blue Deal partnership is facilitating a continuous exchange of knowledge between the 2 countries that started almost 10 years ago through the partnership of the Dutch water authority Hunze en Aas with the Municipality of Beira.

Blue Deal workshop on nature-based solutions during IWA Kigali

On December 11, 2023, the Blue Deal organised a workshop about scaling up nature-based solutions during the congress of the International Water Association (IWA) in Kigali, Rwanda.

The aim of the session was to further explore upscaling of nature-based solutions (NbS), and to discuss with the participants how to secure inclusive sustainability of NbS. In the partnerships, the Blue Deal pays a lot of attention to this topic, since it is one of the important ways to work on climate adaptation, which is one of the crosscutting themes of the Blue Deal.

What are nature-based solutions?

NbS for water management are approaches that work with, rather than against, natural systems to manage water resources and ensure social inclusion. The solutions are designed to enhance the ability of natural ecosystems to store and purify water, while also providing a range of co-benefits, such as biodiversity conservation, carbon sequestration and improved livelihoods.

Main takeaways

The session emphasised on important criteria for long-lasting scaling of these solutions. The Blue Deal, together with the NWB Fund, aims to promote NbS to improve sustainable water management and improve the quality of water resources worldwide. In the workshop several international experts, mainly working in Africa on water management projects, participated. A main takeaway participants mentioned was better knowledge on how to scale up NbS and to improve the communication on the quantitative benefits and results to the political class and community.

Blue Deal continues its work in conflict areas

Through the Blue Deal, Dutch Water Authorities works in 15 countries worldwide. Even in countries where intense conflicts sometimes arise. Like now in the Palestinian Territories, Mali, Ethiopia, and Burkina Faso. How and why does the Blue Deal continue to operate there? Water expert Frank Tibben says: "We continue to collaborate to improve access to sufficient, clean, and safe water. In good times and in bad."

5 people overlook the West Bank from a distance

“Can I travel safely to and from my home? Will I still see my family again after this training?” These are questions Duaa Matar asks herself before deciding to travel to the Netherlands for training at the end of November 2023. Matar is a Palestinian woman working as a Young Expert Professional (Yepper) for the Blue Deal. She lives and works in the West Bank, in the Palestinian Territories.

The interview takes place in a coffee shop in The Hague, the day before she heads back home. A surreal experience as she talks about the war situation in her country. “It’s like I stood outside of reality for 2 weeks. I felt guilty for not being in my homeland. Physically I was here, but mentally I was at home.”

Political situation has changed

The Blue Deal is the international programme of the 21 Dutch water authorities, the Dutch ministries of Foreign Affairs and Infrastructure and Water Management, and water managers worldwide. The goal: to improve access to clean, sufficient, and safe water for 20 million people worldwide. That’s why the Blue Deal has formed 17 partnerships with water managers in 15 countries.

“In some of these countries, the political situation looked different when we started with the Blue Deal,” explains Frank Tibben. He is responsible for collective intelligence and strategic relationships at World Waternet, which works for the Blue Deal on behalf of the Dutch water authority Amstel, Gooi en Vecht. Some of the areas they work for in the Blue Deal, include conflict regions. Tibben also serves as the partnership manager for the Blue Deal in the Palestinian Territories.

Good and bad times

He continues: “We don’t construct infrastructure ourselves; we’re not an engineering firm or contractor. We support local water managers in carrying out their tasks. We do this through knowledge exchange in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. Dutch and local colleagues work in a hybrid manner, with short visits to the country or to the Netherlands as needed. This makes us flexible and allows us to continue, even when conflict arises. The work then often becomes more digital.”

“Within the Blue Deal, we form partnerships until 2030. A lot can happen in such a long period, positively or negatively. We continue to collaborate to improve access to sufficient, clean, and safe water. In good times and in bad,” says Tibben.

Long-term commitment

“Of course, sometimes I wonder: couldn’t we achieve much more in other, safer areas?” says Luzette Kroon. She is board member of the Association of Dutch Water Authorities and is responsible for the international portfolio and chair of the Blue Deal. “But that also means throwing away what we’ve built and abandoning our principles. We operate on the principle of long-term commitment. It’s precisely because of that long-term commitment that we can achieve things. That’s what makes us powerful.”

Pilots

How does the work of the Blue Deal continue in conflict regions? Matar talks about a pilot in Salfit, a city in the West Bank. “A smart system has been created here for monitoring water levels. We can remotely read and adjust the water level. This means the engineer in this area no longer needs to visit the location. It is a relief, because it is currently an unsafe region near Israeli settlements.” The pilot started 3 months before the outbreak of renewed violence.

Another example is the pilot with 3 BluElephants in the cities of Salfit and Halhul in the West Bank. These are mobile, decentralised purification plants that purify wastewater for reuse. Now that Palestinian colleagues in the West Bank can no longer safely travel to and from work, these installations ensure that wastewater continues to be purified.

A pilot with 3 BluElephants ensures that wastewater continues to be purified.

Working in neighbouring countries

In other conflict-affected countries, the Blue Deal also seeks creative solutions. Much of this involves thinking along and providing advice. From a distance. Tibben says: “It helps if the Dutch colleagues have already visited the locations and partners. Last year, for example, we were involved in Ethiopia in the construction of a wetland, a natural water buffer for wastewater treatment. This makes it easier for us in the Netherlands to provide digital support for the monitoring of the wetland and the construction of new wetlands.”

Other options are that Dutch and local colleagues meet in a safe neighbouring country. Or that local colleagues come to the Netherlands.

Continuous support

The Blue Deal team in the Netherlands and the team in the West Bank speak weekly. Digitally, which works well thanks to the experiences from the COVID-19 period. Matar says: “Our colleagues from the Netherlands provide us with continuous support. Every week, we assess what is realistic. We even made plans for 2024, although we don’t know exactly how the situation will develop.” Tibben adds: “Especially in difficult times, the long-term Blue Deal partnership focuses on sustainable water management.”

Kroon says: “In conflict areas, water management is so necessary. We work on solutions that fit the local context, focusing on local people. With the Blue Deal, we contribute to a bit of stability. The fact that our partner water authorities are still functioning indicates that our work is meaningful. As long as we achieve sustainable impact, we continue our work.”

This article originally appeared in magazine ‘Het Waterschap’. Read the original article in Dutch.