© GIZ, Moussa Ibrahim
Access to natural resources and healthy ecosystems is essential for human wellbeing, dignity and sustainable livelihoods. The Lagdo hydroelectric dam in Garoua Cameroon provides the region with potable water, electricity and irrigation to surrounding farmlands. The Benue Basin, including the Lagdo Dam, has enormous Nexus potential, with respect to aspects of hydropower production, irrigation, ecosystem management, and water supply.
The Niger Basin Authority – Sustainable Development Through Cooperation
The Niger River is the longest river in West Africa, running 4,180km from its source in the Guinea highlands, into a crescent through Mali, Niger, Nigeria discharging through the Niger Delta down to the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. It provides water to over 100 million people. The Niger River Basin (as illustrated in the figure below) is the largest transboundary basin in West Africa and expands over an area of 2,13 million km². It is subdivided into three hydrographic regions: the Upper Niger, the Middle Niger and the Lower Niger.
The basin’s hydro-system plays an important role in the countries agricultural sector and contributes to 20-50 percent of the countries’ gross domestic product. The basin is managed by the Niger Basin Authority (NBA) 1980 aimed at the coordinated cooperation in the management of resources within the Niger Basin. It offers advice on the sustainable development of transboundary water resources within its nine member states: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria. It adopts a multilevel structure and various statutory bodies, namely the Summit of Heads of State and Government (the supreme body for orientation and decision making), the Council of Ministers (the NBA’s supervising body), the Technical Committee of Experts (prepares all meetings of the Council of Ministers and submits report recommendations to the latter), and finally the Executive Secretariat (the NBA’s executive body).
The Summit of Heads of State and Government adopted the Water Charter in 2008. It is the legal framework for cooperation on sustainable water resource development. Annex 1 details provisions on environmental protection, Annex 2 caters to the coordinated management of major water infrastructures (i.e.: dams), Annex 3 serves as guidance for the notification system with a threshold for national infrastructure works. Annex 4 regards the sharing of costs and benefits of common infrastructure and infrastructure of common interest. Their legal status is further defined in Annex 5, which has recently been approved by the Council of Ministers. In other words, it is the legal basis upon which joint infrastructure can be achieved benefiting the riparian states.
To ensure the sustainable management of water resources, it is necessary to recognise the interlinkages between water and other sectors, namely energy and food to prevent sectors from operating in silos and promote multi-sectoral cooperation.
Integrated Sector Management via the Water Energy Food (WEF) – Nexus
Access to natural resources and healthy ecosystems is essential for human wellbeing, dignity and sustainable livelihoods. Natural resource management and governance are highly complex, inequalities in the distribution and access to water, energy and food are often exacerbated by the impacts of climate change.
The WEF Nexus approach aims to counteract the negative impacts of climate change and promote the sustainable use of natural resources through an integrated framework for evaluation and decision-making by integrating planning, management and governance across sectors and stakeholders. It promotes policy coherence and multi-sectoral cooperation at all levels. The WEF Nexus turns attention to opportunities: untangling trade-offs, inspiring compromises and uncovering synergies.
The NEXUS project in support of NBA is part of the NEXUS Regional Dialogues Programme and officially started in mid-2017. It is designed to help regional and national stakeholders develop concrete policy recommendations and action plans for future investments, particularly for multi-sector infrastructure and related capacity development; the Lagdo Dam being a prime example. The ambition is to develop Nexus policies and action plans at the national ministerial and regional policy levels and to support partners in mobilizing new investments for larger-scale Nexus projects.
The Cameroonian Lagdo dam on the upper Benue River illustrates the potential benefits of the WEF Nexus approach and the necessity of the NBA in its management of water resource-based infrastructure.
The WEF-Nexus potential of the Lagdo Dam
The Benue river is the most important tributary of the Niger river, it rises in the Adamaoua massif in central Cameroon and flows through the town of Garoua. The northern region has an average annual rainfall (P) of 800 mm from May to September. Potential evapotranspiration (PET) is 2500 mm per year (P/PET). The permanent deficit in PET leads to water stress and a reduction in photosynthesis, which implies greater climatic risks and a potential increase in poverty. The Lagdo multipurpose dam was built on the Benue River between 1977 and 1982. The catchment area controlled by the Lagdo dam is 31,000 km² with an average annual volume of 7,850 hm3, which corresponds to an average flow of 248 m3/s., mostly within Cameroonian territory.
The Benue Basin, including the Lagdo Dam, has enormous Nexus potential, with respect to aspects of hydropower production, irrigation, ecosystem management, and water supply. As part of the mission, the team carried out an on-site visit of the Lagdo Dam and power station and took part in a series of exchanges with the Prefect of the Benue in Garoua and the officials of the technical services of the Northern Region. As a result of the mission, the countries were able to not only identify the dam’s potential (in terms of hydro-electric capacity, food and energy security, flood management) but also express their national interests in the dam (i.e.: food security, electricity production and security, flood management, and tourism potential) thus establishing the potential of making this dam a common infrastructure or an infrastructure of common interest.
The Lagdo dam itself contributes to water-energy and food security; the multipurpose dam contributes to hydropower and irrigational use. Interesting to note, under low water conditions, the dam prioritises by design irrigation purposes. It provides energy security for the nearby communities of Lagdo seeing reduced hydropower capacities during dry periods and an increase during the rainy season to mitigate against extreme flooding – a concern for locals in Garoua and communities further downstream in Nigeria. In terms of food security, the food production potential exceeds the local inhabitants. As such, the sustainable and efficient management of the Benue River Basin can provide important lessons for the use of a Nexus perspective in the entire Niger Basin.