New field experiments assessing groundwater storage in the Iullemmeden Basin have recently been completed under GroFutures by a team of early career researchers. From December 2018 to January 2019, Fabrice Lawson from the Université d’Abomey Calavi and IRD in Benin (UAC/IRD), and Jean-Baptist Gnonhoue (IRD, Benin) worked with colleagues, Rabilou Mahaman and Boukari Issoufou from the Université Abdou Moumouni of Niamey (UAMN) in Niger to conduct field experiments applying Magnetic Resonance Sounding (MRS) and Time Domain Electromagnetics (TDEM), to generate in-situ measurements of groundwater storage. Such measurements of groundwater storage are rare despite their fundamental importance to understanding quantitatively the availability and sustainability of groundwater resources.
In total, the team conducted experiments at 26 sites, including 13 in the Dallol-Maouri region in central Niger and 13 in the Goulbi-Maradi region in southeastern Niger, just north of the border with Nigeria. Fabrice and Jean-Baptist led this field research sharing their expertise with their counterparts in Niger. Fabrice and Jean-Baptist (an early career scientist and engineer, respectively) developed their expertise to apply these sophisticated instruments under the tutelage of Jean-Michel Vouillamoz of IRD based at the University of Grenoble, France. The team was also supported by the lead GroFuturesresearchers in the Iullemmeden Basin Observatory, Professor Yahaya Nazoumou at UAMN and Dr. Guillaume Favreau of IRD, Niamey.
Results from field experiments and the subsequent processing and analyses of data will inform not only evaluations of available groundwater resources in these regions of the Iullemmeden Basin but also stress-testing of groundwater development pathways, developed by stakeholders, through numerical modelling. Well done to Fabrice, Jean-Baptist, Rabilou and Boukari!
Combined Benin-Niger GroFutures field team with supporters working in Goulbi-Maradi (left); Early Career scientists under GroFutures, Fabrice Lawson (UAC/IRD, Benin), Jean-Baptist Gnonhoue (IRD, Benin), Rabilou Mahaman (UAMN, Niger), and Boukari Issoufou (UAMN, Niger) running MRS experiments in Goulbi-Maradi (right).
The GroFutures Team, working with the Tanzanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation, expanded monitoring infrastructure in the Upper Great Ruaha Observatory (UGRO) to include interactions between groundwater and surface water.
An outstanding question regarding the sustainability of groundwater withdrawals for irrigation and drinking-water supplies is whether groundwater in the agriculturally intensive lowlands is replenished by river flow, sustains river flow, or both depending upon the season.
Arusha is one of the faster-growing cities in Tanzania. The urbanization process is causing multiple interconnected problems. The first arena meeting organized as part of the T-Group Arusha Transition Management process was held by the local transition team with the aim to identify the existing community problems in Arusha. Below we briefly describe the findings from the first Arena meeting.
End of 2017, the Dodowa Local Transition Team facilitated the process of envisioning, one of the most important steps in the Transition Management process, through the organisation of (four) workshops for (four) local communities.
Each workshop started with a short summary of the results of previous meetings and sharing of expectations. The participants were then invited to work in different groups and were encouraged to imagine themselves, their families and their communities in the future.
Hereby, emphasis was put on the future of water, sanitation and waste systems in their communities.
In some of the groups, participants were somewhat shy and more time was required to feel at ease and to share openly their opinions. Also, in other groups, participants discussed very enthusiastically various aspects of the envisioning exercise from the very beginning.
The groups chose different ways to represent their future images, e.g. drawing, writing key words or by developing more descriptive sentences. T-GroUP facilitators noticed that during the exercise the participants had the tendency to list actions rather than future images and it was more difficult to imagine the future, especially when far away.
Nevertheless, at the end of the exercise many visions were developed from each group of participants: clean environment, good sanitation for all, sensitized and educated community, good quality water for all, and a healthy and clean community free from waste.
A representative per each group had the opportunity to share the developed visions and everyone was encouraged to ask questions and add comments. After the meeting, participants told us they appreciated the opportunity to learn from each other and express openly their views through their active participation in the process.
Photo: Participant group of the Zongo community (photo credit: T-GroUP/IHE Delft)
In March 2018 the local transition team in Kampala organized the first three Transition Management arena meetings engaging participants from seven communities of an informal settlement area of the city. These first community meetings aimed at supporting the selected participants to structure the problems in their communities.
The Dodowa local transition team organised the first Transition Management arena meetings, which took place on 28th and 29th of September 2017 in four different communities of the Dodowa peri-urban area.
These first meetings represented the starting point of the overall Transition Arena process consisting of a series of monthly meetings.
Every first Sunday of the month, Kawaala zone holds community meetings in which various topics are discussed. The meetings are facilitated by mr. Wilberforce Sserwaniko, the local chairman, and his committee and are well attended. The T-GroUP team took advantage of this already existing communication vehicle and asked for a dedicated meeting to share our findings with the community.
The BRAVE project brings a unique approach of integrating both the social and physical sciences and working, in partnership with, local communities to support effective translation and uptake of research activities. Co-benefits result in the opportunity for students and researchers to learn directly from communities on what is needed and how the BRAVE project can be most effective and beneficial for local communities and partners. A primary example of this work is demonstrated through BRAVE’s Student and Community Research Exchanges. Within the BRAVE project three catchments have been equipped with infrastructure that allows detailed monitoring of all aspects of the water balance. At the Sanon site in Burkina Faso, monitoring is led by Narcisse Gahi, a BRAVE PDRA who sits within IRC, and by Jean Pierre Sandwidi at the University of Ouagadougou, as well as Mahamadou Koita at 2iE. At the Vea Catchment sites in Ghana and Burkina Faso it is led by WASCAL Technician, Sammy Guug, with assistance from the Water Research Institute.
At the Sanon village site, the project has rented local accommodation where students live through the period of the wet season. So far, over two wet seasons, three MSc students and seven BSc students from the University of Ouagadougou and 2iE have gathered data for the project. These students come from hydrology and biology-related courses. At the Vea Catchment sites, a WASCAL PhD student has been collecting data, as well as an intern and a BSc student. It is pleasing to see this collaboration that both improves data collection and builds capacity for local students.
During these stays, students, researchers and communities learn from each other through research conducted and collaborative exchanges. Students and researchers learn how to conduct fieldwork in communities gaining critical understanding and experience in data collection techniques, but also the role of communities within the research process. Communities also gain first-hand understanding of the research being conducted in their community as well as an insight into the important work being done through national universities and how that work can produce benefits nationwide and at community levels. The BRAVE Project Team is very grateful to the students and their supervisors and BRAVE communities for these opportunities.
by Naomi Oates, Grantham institute, UPGro Hidden Crisis
My first impressions of Malawi? It is hot! Temperatures are reaching 37°C in Balaka district at the moment. Around midday it is particularly difficult to move around in the scorching sun – much preferable to sit under a shady tree until the heat dissipates a little (usually it becomes bearable by 3pm).
The landscape is very dry. Sometimes there is a gentle cooling breeze, but that can also kick up a lot of dust. Fortunately, the rains will be starting in November, which will cool things down and allow the crops to grow.
Power cuts are a frequent occurrence at that moment, as the country cannot generate enough to meet demand and electricity has to be rationed. The main energy source is hydropower – reservoirs are at their lowest at this time of year.
My first week in the field was spent settling in to the District Water Office in Balaka, getting to know the staff members. This will be my home for the next 4-5 months (with a break to return to the UK for Christmas).
The office is located just behind the market in Balaka town. It has four rooms and lots of storage containers for equipment and spare parts. I sit in the same room as the District Water Development Office – the boss – but he is often away for meetings.
There are around 49 staff employed by the office in total. Many are based at the treatment works and dam in Ntcheu (the neighbouring district) which supplies Balaka with piped water. There are far fewer staff working on groundwater supplies – namely, the boreholes with handpumps provided to rural communities. It is the latter that my research is focussing on.
In my second week the UpGro Hidden Crisis survey team arrived – the project my PhD is linked to. The team are investigating the multiple causes of waterpoint failure. This includes the functioning of mechanical components in the hand pump, borehole characteristics (e.g. siting and yield) and various aspects of water quality. Discussions are also held with communities to discuss the history of the waterpoint – its construction, breakdowns and repairs, and local arrangements to collect fees and maintain the handpump.
Every waterpoint has a different set of problems – in the case of Alufeyo the community were contributing money for repairs, and showed willingness to pay, but the borehole has been badly sited and produces a low yield.
Next week I hope to accompany the Water Monitoring Assistant (Mr Nkwate) on a Red Cross project that will be drilling and rehabilitating boreholes, and training Water Point Committees (community volunteers).
The objective of my research is to understand the role of different actors at the district-level in developing and sustaining rural water services – how they get their jobs done and the networks of relationships on which they draw. One aspect of this is to explore the interface between the district government offices and the communities they support.
A key component of water resource management is the sound scientific understanding of water flows and storage. Where water supplies are sourced through wells and boreholes in the underlying rocks, we need to understand the volumes of water stored there and how natural climate variability and land cover control how these stores are replenished. For longer term planning purposes, we also need to assess how climate and land use change will impact on the resource.
The BRAVE project aims to provide tools to support water resource management in Ghana and Burkina Faso. This is expected to improve our understanding of the water flows and storage through the instrumentation of a series of small catchments to monitor all aspects of the water balance. The strategy for the BRAVE project was to build on existing monitored catchments, recognizing the cost of monitoring equipment; the time and effort required to build relationships with local communities in the catchments being monitored; and the value of existing contextual and longer-term data sets.
In Burkina Faso, one of the detailed monitoring catchment which BRAVE is working in is around the village of Sanon, 40 km to the north of the capital city, Ouagadougou. Sanon represents much of semi-arid West Africa as the land cover has been significantly changed through farming. The site was first established by BRGM, the French Geological Survey, but has been built up in recent years by the Institut International d’Ingénierie de l’Eau et de l’Environnement (2iE), with input from the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD). Prior to BRAVE’s involvement, there was a network of monitoring boreholes and a weather station in place, and geophysical surveys had been undertaken to characterise the hydrogeological setting. This, with the time series data collected, had allowed a conceptual model of groundwater flows and storage to be developed. Crucially, 2iE has developed a good relationship with the local community and involved members of the community in this monitoring.
Through the BRAVE project, the further development of the monitoring network at Sanon has been a collaborative activity involving 2iE, the University of Ouagadougou (UO1), IRC Burkina Faso and the British Geological Survey. This has included the drilling and testing of additional boreholes, enhancement of the weather station, installation of a series of transects of access tubes to measure soil moisture and the setting up of a river flow measurement site. It has also involved the construction of three plots (4 x 20 m) containing land use representative of the catchment within which runoff, soil moisture, groundwater level, soil infiltration, soil evaporation and plant growth and transpiration are directly measured. The monitoring is undertaken by members of the local community and by students from 2iE and UO1, as well as by BRAVE project staff.
The other two existing catchments where the BRAVE project has enhanced monitoring, are part of the network of research catchments run by the West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL), a large-scale programme for strengthening research infrastructure and capacity involving ten West African countries and funded by the German government. One of these catchments, Aniabisi, is in Northern Ghana in an area similar to Sanon, where the landscape has been substantially changed through farming; the other, Nazinga, is just across the border in southern Burkina Faso in a nature reserve where the natural land cover is still intact. The infrastructure already in place in these WASCAL catchments has been built upon through collaboration by WASCAL, the Ghanaian Water Research Institute and BGS. Aniabisi now has infrastructure and monitoring equipment similar to that in Sanon, including the three land use plots; Nazinga is a scaled down version of this. As with Sanon, the local relationships with communities has been important in the installation of new infrastructure and local residents are also undertaking some of the monitoring work. Crucial impacts have been the support of WASCAL technical staff in the development and subsequent running of the sites.
The collaboration between BRAVE and West African organisations has been a great success that has seen the value added to established sites. The embedding of BRAVE research will greatly improve the chances that the monitoring sites developed through UPGro will be sustained beyond the period of the Programme. The importance of the resulting datasets cannot be underestimated, as we strive to understand the impacts of environmental change on the water resources that underpin future adaptation and resource management.
Top Photo: Sorghum cropping is a land use type that is included in monitoring plots at both Sanon and Aniabisi