event 25 May 2021

Nexus Blog // Addressing complex risks - on the ROAD to sustainable resource planning in West Africa

At the beginning of May, a webinar took place for members of the two projects Nexus Regional Dialogue in the Niger Basin and Improving Climate Security and Resilience in a Fragile Context through the Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus (FREXUS). Both projects are jointly funded by the European Commission (DG INTPA) and the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and implemented by GIZ.

Niger Basin

Life on the Niger River, the principal river of West Africa © GIZ

About thirty participants from Mali, Niger, Guinea, Cameroon and other countries, learned about the added benefits of the Water-Energy-Food security Nexus approach (WEF Nexus) in the context of West Africa – a region which increasingly faces conflict over resources exacerbated by climate change. As a concrete example, the implementation of the WEF Nexus in the Operational Plan of the Niger Basin Authority (NBA) was introduced. The event closed with a presentation of a risk-assessment and decision-making tool applied to different projects of NBAs Operational Plan.

Why is the Water-Energy-Food Nexus approach essential for securing access and availability of natural resources?

How is it different to conventional “silo-thinking and acting” and how can it contribute to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals? These questions were tackled by Alexandre Mesnil, Regional Coordinator of the FREXUS project at GIZ, kicking off the webinar. Neighbouring countries of the Niger Basin and the Sahel region are facing an increasing demand for natural resources such as water, energy and land. These increasingly competing demands take place in an environment of climate change and political instability, which often enhances tensions between communities and triggers conflicts. The WEF Nexus approach provides an appropriate framework for an integrated, holistic and efficient resource management. By providing climate-resilient development opportunities and including the most vulnerable of the affected communities in the planning process, it fosters peace and stability.

Enhancing sustainable resource planning through the WEF Nexus approach – the case of the Niger Basin Authority (NBA)

Dr Ousmane Seidou, Professor of Water Resources at the University of Ottawa followed up with an overview of the Operational Plan of the Niger Basin Authority (NBA) and the integration of the WEF Nexus approach into it.

The NBA is an intergovernmental organization in West Africa aiming to foster co-operation in managing and developing the natural resources of the basin of the Niger River. The successor of the Commission of the Niger River is composed of nine countries: Burkina Faso, Benin, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Chad.

NBA's vision is to make the Niger Basin a common space for sustainable development through integrated management of water resources and associated ecosystems, for the improvement of living conditions and prosperity of the populations by 2025. However, main challenges in the region are food security, access to water and energy, climate change, environmental degradation and conflicts evolving around natural resources.

Operational Plan NBA
Operational Plan NBA. © O. Seidou, C. Ringler, S. Kalcic, L. Ferrini, R. TraoréIntégration

The Niger Basin Authority has developed over 300 projects in its 2016-2024 Operational Plan to achieve the Niger Basin's Shared Vision. The projects cover a wide range of investments: from infrastructure development, such as large dams; irrigation equipment and navigation routes for socioeconomic development; and the preservation of the basin’s ecosystems, such as the Inner Niger Delta; to interventions geared toward strengthening the governance and management of the shared natural resources in the basin. However, without careful assessment of these projects and their interlinkages, the scarce and fragile water, land and ecosystem resources could suffer irreversible damages.

A tool to manage complex risks in critical systems

In this context, Dr Seidou presented the Risks and Options Assessment for Decision-Making (ROAD) process - a promising tool which allows decision makers to identify and assess risks within food, energy, environment and water systems.

This participatory, systems-based approach was applied to identify measures to address key risks across the Niger Basin. Risk assessment results guided identification and ranking of the linkages of NBA Operational Plan projects with water-food-energy security and environmental sustainability in a transboundary context. Additionally, Dr Seidou elaborated on a quantitative evaluation of the actions of the Operational Plan as well as the restrains of this study.

The event ended with an open round for questions and discussions.

Further resources

The slides used in the presentations can be found here.

About the speakers

Alexandre Mesnil has been a technical expert at GIZ for 7 years and is in charge of a WEF NEXUS/Security project in the Sahel region, the FREXUS project. He has worked for the last 10 years abroad in the water sector in the MENA region for GIZ and for the French Cooperation. He has studied Geography at the University of Paris Sorbonne in Paris, France. Alexandre is based in Eschborn, Germany and regularly travels to the Sahel region.

Dr Ousmane Seidou is Professor of Water Resources in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Ottawa and Assistant Professor at the United Nations University, Institute for Water, Environment and Health. He has over 20 years of experience in research, teaching and capacity building activities related to water resources management, hydrological risks and adaptation to climate variability and change.

Related articles

- Nexus Blog // Combating climate change: an opportunity for conflict prevention in the Sahel

- FE2W // Guide to the Risks and Options Assessment for Decision Making (ROAD) Process

- Nexus Niger Basin // Achieving the Niger Basin Shared Vision by Drawing on its Cross-sectoral Strength

- Publication // Challenges and Opportunities in the Operationalization of the Water-Environment-Energy-Food (WE2F) Nexus: Case Study of the Upper Niger Basin and Inner Niger Delta, West Africa

- Quantifying the Sustainability of Water Availability

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