AMCOW Pan African Groundwater Program (APAGroP): A new pan-African initiative promises to open peer-to-peer learning between national governments and increase groundwater data sharing and research collaboration [K4]

UPGro and its partners have played a key role in raising the profile of groundwater among high-level policy-makers in Africa.

The UPGro Programme, along with other African and International groundwater partners, supported the AMCOW Pan-African Groundwater Programme (APAGroP) under its remit to support and strengthen the capacity of Member States and regional and international organisations to use and manage groundwater sustainably. This engagement began at the 6th Africa Water Week (2016) and was strengthened at the 7th Africa Water Week (2018), where UPGro co-convened two sessions as part of ‘Groundwater Thursday’, highlighting the importance of groundwater, and interdisciplinary, policy-informed groundwater research, to increase water security in Africa.

APAGroP was set up in response to the Libreville Multi-stakeholders’ Declaration on Achieving Water Security and Safely Managed Sanitation for Africa, which emerged from the 7th Africa Water Week, held in Libreville, Gabon. This declaration responded to ‘…the need to revitalize AMCOW’s stewardship of a strategic pan-African Groundwater Initiative in partnership with Africa’s active groundwater networks’. It called for ‘…increased focus on addressing the human resource capacity gap and deteriorating data monitoring networks which hamper availability of surface and groundwater resources data in adequate quantity and quality’. And urged ACMOW to ‘…set up an African Groundwater knowledge sharing and policy coordination desk at AMCOW Secretariat for the promotion of increased understanding and use of groundwater resources in addressing water security in Africa’.

 APAGroP was formally launched at a stakeholders’ workshop in Nairobi, Kenya in October 2019, supported by IWMI, BGS, BGR and UPGro. More than 50 participants attended the workshop including representatives from the AMCOW Secretariat, International and African research institutes, Regional Economic Communities, National Government, International and Inter-Governmental Organisations, River Basin Organisations, the private sector, professional bodies and networks, and international donors. Nine UPGro researchers and members of the knowledge broker team presented at the workshop providing examples of groundwater research informing policy and practice and highlighting key outputs from the programme that could be adopted by APAGroP to achieve short-term impact, such as the Africa Groundwater Atlas.

The engagement with AMCOW through the Pan-African Groundwater Programme has allowed further funds to be leveraged from the UK Global Challenges Research Fund through the Groundwater for Resilience in Africa Network (GRAN). GRAN will continue to support APAGroP over two years between September 2019 and 2021, providing opportunities for UPGro researchers to continue to engage and influence groundwater policy and practice at the continental level beyond the end of the programme in March 2020.

The next step for APAGroP was taken at the African Water Association (AfWA) Congress in Kampala, Uganda in February 2020.  Before the congress, the Knowledge Broker team organised a 2-day study tour (20/21 February) at which UPGro researchers were given the opportunity to present and show their work to a group of 60 participants in the field, in workshops and at the Ministry of Water Environment, where the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Alfred Okot Okidi, provided the opening and played an active role.

The following 2-days (22/23 February), AMCOW convened the first meetings of the APAGroP working groups, with support from GRAN (Dr Kirsty Upton, BGS; Dr Karen Villholth, IWMI). These meetings, established actions and priorities for the programme and cemented AMCOW ownership of the process, including the active involvement of the Executive Secretary, Dr Kanangire. It was agreed that the first APAGroP action would be the piloting of a Groundwater Country Support Tool in Namibia. Although not an UPGro output, this early commitment from an AMCOW member state and an international partner (BGR) was a good indicator that APAGroP has quickly achieved broader buy-in that can be sustained after UPGro has ended.

At the AfWA Congress, UPGro and AMCOW convened the thematic stream on groundwater (a topic that had been only covered in one UPGro-supported session at the previous AfWA congress in Bamako, Mali in 2017). The stream comprised 7 sessions from Tuesday to Thursday morning.  AMCOW sessions were at the beginning and end that established the policy and research links through APAGroP, and in-between were technical presentations and panels convened by the individual UPGro Consortia, plus a session led by BGR and another led by Skat, BGS and Cardiff University (based on a groundwater resilience study in Nigeria, called RIGSS, in 2016/2017).

An outcome that was announced at the final session was the establishment of a team of “Groundwater Champions” among the TAC members to act as ambassadors for the messages they had taken from the week both internationally and in their home countries.

Finally, at AfWA, the new AMCOW Desk Officer, Professor Moshood Tijani, was publicly introduced and he took an active role in the sessions and networking. Prof. Tijani, from Ibadan University, Nigeria formally takes up the AMCOW role at the end of March 2020.  He was co-lead of an UPGro Catalyst Study and the RIGSS study and is one of Africa’s leading hydrogeologists.

[K4]

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