Both ENDS and partners inspire during World Water Week in Stockholm
'Water for development' was the topic of the annual World Water Week (WWW), which was held last week in Stockholm for the 25th time. Thirza Bronner, Sanderijn van Beek and Cindy Coltman of Both ENDS were present, together with partners Serah Munguti of ‘Nature Kenya’ in Kenya, and Suu Lam from the ‘Centre for Social Research and Development (CSRD)’ in Vietnam. In light of this year’s theme, Both ENDS decided to invite these two outspoken women leaders to this conference to bring strong civil society voices to the table. They took part in a roundtable session that was marked by enthusiastic participation of policy makers, donors and NGOs. During the session, Munguti and Lam told us about their organisational objectives, their experiences and how ‘water for development’ translates into their practice.
The daily struggle for water
“Water is life in the Tana Delta; it determines whether there is peace or war, or whether one is rich or poor.” With this short and clear opening phrase, Munguti kicked off the roundtable session organised by Both ENDS. Around 12 persons attended the session, mostly policy makers and NGO-representatives. Munguti and Lam work closely with communities and therefore know all about their daily struggles for access to water. They both shared their stories that demonstrate how poor planning, water use and sharing of water resources can lead to chaos and are a major source of conflict and poverty. At the same time, they emphasized that the only way forward in finding a solution is by involving communities in water management and in the planning of this resource. "Only when community needs are included and discussed, and trade-offs for all stakeholders are debated, development is possible."
Tana Delta in Kenya
Over the last seven years, Nature Kenya has been working on involving local communities in the land use planning process for the Tana Delta. Down-stream pastoralists and farmers in this Delta – which, besides from being home to 100.000 people, is also one of Kenya’s most important wetlands for various bird species - have been facing an alarming water scarcity. Upstream urban water users in Nairobi and and large scale biofuel plantations - meant to compensate Europe’s carbon emissions! - put a huge strain on the Delta. This struggle over water has even led to fatal conflicts. In response to this water crisis, Nature Kenya supported and facilitated the local government in developing a bottom up water-use planning. Because of this effort, the local inhabitants of over 100 villages were invited to participate. “You have to go door by door, knocking on their doors,” says Munguti, “but in this case it resulted in the first bottom-up land use plan ever in Kenya, so it truly represents the needs of the local people. The plan has now been adopted and launched by both the county governments as well as the national governments. For the first time, we have a mutually agreed plan: pastoralists know where to graze, investors know where to plan their business, and conservationists can protect the areas important to save species.”
Huong River in Vietnam
Suu Lam tells us about the work she and her organisation ‘Centre for Social Research and Development’ do in the Huong River area in Vietnam. “Here, people directly suffer from the effects of climate change, such as salinization of agricultural land due to a rising sea level. Moreover, upstream large-scale interventions, such as dams, plantations and mining cause severe damage to the environment that local people depend upon for their survival.” Lam tells us about the successful integration of the voices, knowledge and practices of the local population in provincial policies and local management. In her presentation, she stresses the need to integrate bottom-up mechanisms to cope with and adapt to climate change in the policies of other NGOs and regional development banks, and to encourage multi stakeholder processes. “The answer to climate change adaptation is not only to invest in concrete infrastructure, but particularly to invest in the resilience of local communities, and ensure they can act upon climate change by, for example, investing in replanting mangroves.”
Raising awareness among embassies
“I am happy that Both ENDS gave us this opportunity to have a dialogue with these important actors, as it is hard for us to get in contact with them,”, says Lam. “For example, the Dutch government invests in international financial institutes such as the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank. Those institutes invest in my country, to make it more climate proof. However, these institutes often invest too much in the infrastructure, and not enough in the green and social side of climate change adaptation measures, leaving the country with only more and more roads and new dams. That is not always the most sustainable option”. During the lively and fruitful discussion at the end of the session, the participating policy makers indicated that they and their respective embassies are often not aware of the actual impact of those investments on the ground. Lam: “Mr. Kees Rade, who is the head of the Inclusive Green Growth Department of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, suggested to also share our ideas with their respective embassies. I think this is a very useful suggestion, because in order to promote inclusive and sustainable water-use planning, the voices of local stakeholders must be heard. It would be great if the embassies too could then share their message with the financial institutions that invest in our country!” Munguti fully agrees with this and adds: “It has been a great opportunity to be in one room with European policy makers and funders and present the eyewitness evidence of the work that is happening on the ground.”
World Water Week: Shifting from a technical to a more social approach to water management
Traditionally, the WWW program represents a rather narrow focus to water, as it mostly focuses on access to drinking water and sanitation, or the so-called WASH agenda. This year, however, the conference presented a more social and integral view on water and its crucial role in achieving sustainable livelihoods. Water security is one of the main challenges of the 21st century. Security has not so much to do with the availability of water, but more with how it is divided amongst different users. In their 2015 World Water Development Report, the UN stated that in order to foster a more equitable allocation of scarce water resources and to facilitate water sharing among competing users, innovative tools and approaches should be developed.
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