Water — a source of cooperation for SADC member states

SANF 24 no 5 – By Clarkson Mambo

SADC member states are increasing their cooperation in the water sector in pursuit of regional integration and sustainable management of transboundary water resources for the socio-economic benefit of their citizens.

This is in line with the Revised SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses of 2000, which seeks to foster close and coordinated cooperation in the management, protection, and utilization of shared watercourses, and to advance the SADC agenda of regional integration and poverty alleviation.

In keeping with the agenda, four SADC member states that share the Limpopo watercourse signed an agreement that upgrades their cooperation in the joint management of the basin to ministerial level at a historic event on 14 March 2024.

Ministers responsible for water from Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe signed an amendment to the 2003 agreement that established the Limpopo Watercourse Commission (LIMCOM) in a move aimed at broadening and ensuring effective management of the river basin.

The amendment to the LIMCOM Agreement formalizes the establishment of the Council of Ministers as LIMCOM’s main policy and decision-making body.

Previously, decision making was in the hands of senior officials.

LIMCOM was established in November 2003 to advise and “provide recommendations on the uses of the Limpopo, its tributaries, and its waters for purposes and measures of protection, preservation, and management of the Limpopo.”

“We have reached another milestone in the history of LIMCOM. The inclusion of the Council of Ministers as the main decision-making body will improve the operations of the LIMCOM and its Secretariat,” said the South African Minister for Water and Sanitation, Senzo Mchunu.

His Mozambican counterpart, Dr Carlos Alberto Fortes Mesquita concurred, saying the people of the basin are “ultimately winners as LIMCOM would now better serve them.”

“We have all made history and should continue to serve the people that live in the basin,” said Dr Mesquita, who is Minister of Public Works, Housing and Water Resources.

Zimbabwe’s Minister for Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, and Rural Development, Dr Anxious Masuka paid tribute to the four member states for seeing water as a source of cooperation rather than conflict.

“I want to thank all the four LIMCOM Riparian States for having risen to the occasion to improve the governance of LIMCOM. Water is a source of life and cooperation,” Dr Masuka said.

A representative of the government of Botswana, Nchidzi Mmolawa said “the amendment of the LIMCOM Agreement is a good development as it enhances decision-making and ensures that the governance of LIMCOM is at the highest level.”

The work of the Watercourse Commission has become more imperative as a growing population of over 18 million people, increased socio-economic activities such as agriculture, mining, eco-tourism, and industrial usage have heightened the demand for water and other resources in the Limpopo basin.

As part of the cooperation, LIMCOM, with support from development partners launched a US$6 million project called the Integrated Transboundary River Basin Management for the Sustainable Development of the Limpopo River Basin.

The project aims to uplift the living standards of the basin’s population and conserve the basin’s resources and ecosystems through interventions that will be executed at the community level.

The project is being implemented in partnership with the Global Water Partnership Southern Africa (GWPSA) as the executing agency, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as the implementing agency, and with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Across SADC, several watercourse commissions have been established between and among member states in keeping with the regional integration agenda.

The commissions are all tasked with ensuring sustainable management of transboundary water resources, moreso in light of climate change which has brought with it its own challenges.

Experts have emphasized the importance of joint management of water and other natural resources to ensure equitable use as a means to avoid conflict between communities and states. sardc.net

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