Going underground at the Africa Water Week

by Isaiah Esipisu at the 7th Africa Water Week, Gabon

Groundwater is one of the most important sources for drinking water, livestock water and irrigation in Africa, representing 15% of the continent’s renewable water resources, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

However, its hidden presence under the ground has left it largely under-valued and under-utilised both for social and economic gain. But even worse, scientists have confessed that very little studies have so far been done to unlock the potential of this scarce resource.

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“We do not know what we have because we have not done adequate studies yet. Some studies have been constrained by lack of adequate monitoring data, for example data for rainfall,” said Prof Daniel Olago, a Senior Geologists at the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

“We also do not have very good data on river-flows, and how much they contribute to groundwater systems,” he said.

It is based on such understanding that UpGro, in collaboration with the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) have decided to convene a daylong session at the 2018 Africa Water Week in Libreville, Gabon, to discuss issues related to groundwater in Africa.

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According to UNECA, groundwater constitute the most important buffer and reserve during surplus periods as well as a source of water for streams and/or direct withdrawals in times of shortage, given the changing climatic conditions.

The UN therefore reckons that groundwater management in Africa can be an essential component of climate change adaptation strategies.

“Renewable groundwater resources in Africa are underutilised, yet groundwater can play a major role in assisting farmers to increase food production and to overcome threats to food security if climate change leads to greater rainfall variability,” reports UNECA in a policy brief.

During the groundwater session at the 7th Africa Water Week, the conveners will take a deeper look at its contribution to Africa’s water security and exploration of aquifers as a key for water security on the continent.

There will also be some focus on operation of the Africa Groundwater Commission (AGWC), which was established in 2008, but 10 years down the line, it has not been as proactive as expected.

To find out more:

  1. Don’t miss Groundwater Thursday at AWW-7!
  2. General introduction to UPGro
  3. Background Paper: Groundwater’s Contribution to Water Security in Africa
  4. Background Paper: Experiences of Research into Use within UPGro
  5. Africa Groundwater Atlas

“They Gave Us Breakfast and a Good Meal”: Roles, Perceptions and Motivations of Water Point Area Mechanics in the Maintenance of Borehole Hand Pumps in Balaka District, Malawi

by Thokozani Mtewa, Evans Mwathunga, Wapumuluka, Mulwafu

Abstract

“In the rural areas of Malawi, water is accessed mostly through boreholes. The borehole and hand pump functionality concept is currently getting a central place in development agenda for the provision of affordable and safe water supply under the Sustainable Development Goals.

A study on area mechanics and borehole functionality was conducted in Balaka district in Malawi in 2017. The study used qualitative research methods of data collection using
political economy analysis to understand the role of Area Mechanics (AMs), their relationships with water point committees and other stakeholders, their perceptions,
motivations and challenges. Questionnaires and an audio recorder were employed to
collect data from individual interviews and focus groups.

The study findings revealed that even though the system of AMs is well defined in
policy, in practice things are done differently. The AMs defined their jobs differently; from entrepreneurs (10%) to community volunteers (90%) and the sizes of catchment areas of AMs are mostly divided informally and unequally which affects service delivery.
The study also found AMs are motivated by both monetary and non-monetary benefits
from the communities under their jurisdictions.

Consequently, overall the level of incentives and disincentives seem to have affected
their maintenance service provision as well as their relationships with other water point
stakeholders. For proper functioning of an AM system as part of groundwater infrastructure, this paper therefore proposes the need to revise the policy and procedures in training, selection and allocation of AMs as well regular short term trainings to area mechanics at district level.”

Source: Conference Abstract

An Analysis of Hand Pump Boreholes Functionality in Malawi

by  Prof T. Mkandawire, E. Mwathunga, A.M. MacDonald, H.C. Bonsor, S. Banda, P.,Mleta, S. Jumbo, J. Ward, D. Lapworth, L. Whaley, R.M. Lark

Abstract

A survey on functionality of boreholes equipped with hand pumps was undertaken in five districts in Malawi in 2016. The survey aimed at developing a robust evidence base and understanding of the complex and multifaceted causes of high failure rates of groundwater supplies in Africa in the wake of climate change. This would guide sustainable future investments in water and sanitation projects.A stratified two-stage sampling strategy was adopted.

The results from the survey indicate that 74% of hand pump boreholes (HPBs) are functional at any one point; 66% of HPBs passed the design yield of 10 liters per minute; 55% passed the design yield and also experienced less than one month downtime within a year; and 43% of HPBs which passed the design yield and reliability, also passed the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards of water quality.

The survey also assessed the village level Water Management Arrangements at
each water point. Results indicate that the majority of the Water Management Arrangements (86%) are functional or highly functional.

The initial exploration of the data shows no simple relationship between the physical functionality and Water Management Arrangements.

Source: Conference Abstract

Photo: SADC-GMI (via Twitter)

Groundwater and African National Development Strategies

Keynote address by Dr Callist Tindimugaya, Ministry of Water & Environment, Uganda (UPGro Ambassador)

[Correction: the co-author of the abstract is Dr Andrew Bullock, not Sean Furey]

“Groundwater is poised to play a key role in Africa’s transformation. Over two-thirds of African nations have made specific reference to groundwater within their National Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategies.

Water is very strongly represented in such National Strategies, and across the pillars. There are three main clusters of pillars at the core of the development strategies namely

(i) unlocking Growth Potential – including water within the productive sectors of agriculture, energy, water transport, mining, business enterprises,

(ii) Social Well Being – including WASH, sanitary urban environments and disease reduction, and

(iii) Governance and Human Capital – around issues of environmental compliance, water policy and management, climate adaptation, decentralisation, private sector, regional integration.

The National Strategies of many countries make explicit reference to groundwater and there is a significant concentration of strategy around groundwater in support of urban centres and rural water supply, amid other governance, policy, financing, institutional and sustainability issues. It is therefore important to get the key players appreciate that a strong connection exists between groundwater and Africa’s politically-owned agenda of national development, inclusive growth and poverty reduction.

It means that research links to poverty can evolve from conceptual frameworks towards the actual political commitments to use groundwater towards poverty reduction in Africa. There is therefore a need to look at a significant African process around the AfricaWater Vision, the Sharm-el-Sheik commitments to delivery, national monitoring and evaluation systems and the associated agenda of key African actors, notably the African Union, African Ministerial Council on Water, the African Development Bank and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and how they can help move the groundwater agenda forward.

“This paper presents proposals on how the role of groundwater on the continent can be enhanced and appreciated so as to support National Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategies.”

 

Source: Conference Abstract

Photo: SADC-GMI (via Twitter)

Resilience of Rural Groundwater Supplies to Climate Change

Key Note Presentation by Prof. Alan MacDonald @ 1st SADC Groundwater Conference
Keywords: (Drought, Climate, Change, Infrastructure, Groundwater Resources, Resilience).

Alan

“Recent droughts have highlighted the need to understand and forecast the resilience of water supplies to climate variability. Resilience of groundwater supplies is determined by several factors: groundwater storage; long term recharge; permeability; and the infrastructure put in place to abstract groundwater.

“Drawing on recent research from across Africa, mainly funded through the UPGro programme, this talk examines the relative importance of each of these factors for rural drinking water supplies, and attempts to distinguish between the behaviour of the groundwater resource and the water infrastructure.

“A variety of data are presented and evaluated: detailed groundwater level monitoring of springs, wells and boreholes; national survey data of borehole functionality; groundwater residence time indicators; and also information from GRACE and global Land Surface Model.”

Source: Conference Abstract

Photo: SADC-GMI (via Twitter)

Facing the groundwater threats and opportunities in Southern Africa

This week, regional and international water experts have converged on Johannesburg at the 1st Groundwater Conference of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The event has been convened by the SADC Groundwater Management Institute (GMI) in assocciation with a number of partners including GRIPP

UPGro has a strong presence at the event as part of the build-up to Africa Water Week next month, in Gabon:

  • Opening Keynote: Karen G. Villholth (GroFutures) and Jude Cobbing.
    “Adapting to Climate Change in the SADC Region – A Focus on Groundwater.”
  • Presentation: Theresa Mkandawire (Hidden Crisis) presented “An analysis of hand pump boreholes functionality in Malawi.”
  • Keynote speaker: Alan McDonald. (Hidden Crisis/GroFutures) “Resilience of rural
    groundwater supplies to climate change”
  • Presentation: Thokozani Mtewa,Evance Mwathunga and Wapulumuka Mulwafu.
    (Hidden Crisis) “They gave us breakfast and a good meal’: Roles, perceptions and
    motivations of water point area mechanics in the maintenance of borehole handpumps in Balaka district, Malawi.”
  • Keynote speaker: Dr Callist Tindimugaya “Groundwater and African National Development Strategies”

You can follow the conference on Twitter: #gwconference2018

photo : Prof Theresa Makandawire presenting UPGro Hidden Crisis work in Malawi (credit BGS via Twitter)

 

UPGro leading the groundwater governance and research debate at Africa Water Week

Africa Water Week is held every two years and this year brings it to Libreville, Gabon:

“The Africa Water Week (aww) is convened by the African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) in conjunction with the African Union Commission and organized with other development partners. It represents a political commitment at the highest level with over 1000 participants from governments, regional institutions, international partners, the private sector, the scientific community, civil society, and the media from all over the world, and in particular Africa, meeting to discuss and collectively seek solutions to Africa’s water resources, and sanitation challenges.”

UPGro is proud to be a lead convener of Sub-Theme 3 on Water Governance, in partnership with AMCOW.

There will be two UPGro/AMCOW sessions at the week:

No. 10Thurs

1st Nov

 

16.00 – 17.30

 

Title Influencing Policy and Practice – the Africa Groundwater Commission and Research for Development
Convener AMCOW with UPGro (c/o Skat Foundation)
Co-Convener(s) UPGro is a programme of Universities and Research Institutions, together with the Africa Groundwater Network, International Association of Hydrogeologists, in partnership with country-level African water management institutions.
Contacts Dr Andrew Bullock (andybullock61@btinternet.com);
Objectives Based on its past and current status, AMCOW will present a future trajectory for the Africa Groundwater Commission. One key role will be to influence policy and practice around groundwater. UPGro will share experiences of Research for Development with a view to framing support to support operationalisation of the Commission.
Description The Africa Groundwater Commission is mandated by the African Union within the framework of the Africa Water Vision 2025 to help create “An Africa where groundwater resources are valued and utilized sustainably by empowered stakeholders”. On one hand, it is one arm of the established governance of the AU and AMCOW.The session will feature short presentations and panel discussion with leaders from research, government and international cooperation to highlight the key challenges for water management where stronger collaboration on bringing groundwater knowledge into policy and practice can deliver value through this established African instrument.

 

No. 7Thurs

1st Nov

 

09.00 – 10.30

Title Groundwater’s contribution to Africa’s Water Security
Conveners UPGro with AMCOW
Co-Convener(s)
Contacts Dr Andrew Bullock (andybullock61@btinternet.com);
Objectives To establish the relevance of groundwater within the overarching trajectory of Africa’s water security – including the Africa Water Vision, the SDGs, and National Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategies. To complement an authoritative baseline, recent research will highlight how innovation remains important to unlocking knowledge of groundwater’s potential and limits.
Description The session will feature a keynote presentation on Groundwater’s contribution to water security. A convened panel (including representatives from the Africa Groundwater Network and AMCOW) will give their national, sub-regional and pan-African perspectives. An open floor will allow for additional perspectives from the floor.

We hope all those are coming to the conference will make time for these engaging and important sessions. Find out more on the Africa Water Week website: https://africawaterweek.com

Thank you to the AMCOW Secretariat for their support plus the many partners in many different national, regional and global agencies who have supported this initiative.

Africa Groundwater Atlas in Switzerland

On 6 September, the Swiss Water Partnership organised a learning event for partners on “Assessment of Surface and Groundwater” featuring a variety of talks and discussions relating to both domestic water resources and in development cooperation contexts. The event was hosted by the Centre for Development and Cooperation (NADAL) at ETH Zurich.

Sean Furey, from Skat/UPGro Knowledge Broker team, presented the Africa Groundwater Atlas, and discussed issues around groundwater information and assessment, not just for Africa but for development cooperation more generally and the role that organisations in Switzerland, such as Skat, World Vision, SDC, NADAL, University of Neuchatel and others can play in supporting such efforts.

Also presented at the event was Eawag’s Groundwater Assessment Platform, and SDC/University of Neuchatel groundwater mapping and recharge research in Chad. For links to all the presentations visit the Swiss Water Partnership

photo: SWP

Sharing experiences of data flows in water and sanitation – some reflections from AGUASAN Workshop 2018

by Sean Furey, Skat Foundation / UPGro Knowledge Broker Team

AGUASAN Workshop: “Leveraging the data revolution Informed decision-making for better water and sanitation management” June 25th to 29th 2018, Spiez, Switzerland 

AGUASAN is the Swiss Community of Practice for water and sanitation that has been running since 1984 and comprises regular meetings through the year and an annual week-long workshop focused on a specific topic, which this year was around role of data in decision-making in water and sanitation services. Around 40 participants attended at a really great training facility in Spiez, in central Switzerland. They came, not just from Swiss organisations, but from a wide range of partners (many who are active RWSN members). There were participants from Bangladesh, Tajikistan, Mozambique, Peru, Thailand, Mali, Pakistan, Benin, Egypt, Mongolia, the UK, South Africa, US and many more. I was attending on behalf of RWSN, UPGro and REACH because the network and both research programmes have a lot to share on this topic.

Continue reading Sharing experiences of data flows in water and sanitation – some reflections from AGUASAN Workshop 2018

UPGro early careers researchers share experiences on an international platform

Compiled by Isaiah Esipisu, PAMAC news agency http://www.pamacc.org 

Five African early career research scientists took to stage at the 41st Water Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC)’s International Conference at the Egerton University in Kenya to showcase ongoing research achievements so far under the UPGro project.

Drawn from Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Ethiopia, the young researchers discussed some of the complex social science, physical science and practical issues given their experience in two research areas namely Gro for GooD, through which scientists are developing a groundwater risk management tool in Kenya, and Hidden Crisis, which is unravelling current failures for future success in rural groundwater supply.

“Am not shy to say that it is my first time to participate in a research of this magnitude,” said Willy Sasaka, Assistant Hydrogeologist from the Rural Focus Company, which is coordinating the Gro4GooD research in Kenya.

Guided by scientists from the University of Nairobi, Oxford University, the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and the University of Barcelona, the research project has led to the discovery of two paleochannels in Kenya’s Kwale County, which is the main source of groundwater that drives the tourism industry along Diani beach, serves residents of Ukunda, and supports a large scale irrigated sugarcane farming initiative in Kwale among others.

Sasaka made his presentation alongside his colleague, Suleiman Mwakuria, who explained how the scientists have been able to involve the local community in the research, including students who help in reading rain gauges among other things.

Patrick Makuluni, a geologist from Malawi talked about functionality and failures of boreholes in his country, showcasing slides to show how scientists have been able to identify reasons why boreholes fail soon after they have been sunk.

“Millions of pounds of investment by water users, charities and tax-payers are wasted each year by water points failing soon after construction,” he told delegates at an event organised by RWSN on the sidelines of the WEDC conference. “Getting a more complete understanding of how to keep water flowing from boreholes will reduce waste and improve water services for Africa’s poorest communities,” said Makuluni.

So far, the Malawi study, through which the scientists dismantled 50 functioning and dead boreholes to examine the underlying causes of failure, has already come up with preliminary findings.

“We found out that one of the causes of borehole failure was vandalism,” said Makuluni. Other boreholes were abandoned due to poor water quality, some due to poor maintenance; others were silted, while in some cases there were governance problems.

However, the young scientist noted that the researchers are yet to do data analysis, compile results, make reports and disseminate the findings.

Yehualaeshet Tadesse, a young female scientists from Ethiopia, presented a similar case, but focusing on social causes for poorly functioning water pumps in her country.

In Ethiopia, 170 water pumps in nine districts were surveyed in the first phase of the research project, where it was found that a lack of village level operation and maintenance skilled manpower was one of the contributing factors for water pump failure.

“We also found out that water pumps located in areas with alternative water sources such as springs, streams, private water scheme were poorly maintained,” said Tadesse.

She pointed out that pumps on non-communal land were often neglected, and as well, communities with limited finance and savings did not manage their boreholes well.

In Uganda, Joseph Okullo from Makerere University talked about rainfall variability, and how it affected groundwater in his country.

“Rainfall chloride concentration was interestingly found to be higher during drier season,” he told the WEDC delegates.

Sean Furey introducing African Early Career schientist at a WEDC side event

Above: Sean Furey (RWSN) introduces the research conducted by the UPGro Early Career Researchers.

The 41st WEDC International Conference is co-hosted with Egerton University, on Egerton main campus (near Nakuru) in Kenya between July 9 and 13, 2018. The conference is a valued and respected platform for reflection, debate and exchange of knowledge and ideas that are rooted in practice.

Photo credits: Isaiah Esipisu