‘Wa­ter is­sues need in­clu­sive ap­proach’

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

REP­RE­SEN­TA­TIVES of African gov­ern­ments, civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­ter­na­tional donors and agen­cies last week par­tic­i­pated in the Sixth African Wa­ter Week (AWW) fo­rum held in Dar es Salaam, Tan­za­nia.

Held un­der the theme “Achiev­ing the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGS) on Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion”, the fo­rum ex­plored ways by which each of the con­ti­nent’s 54 states could pro­vide clean wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion to their peo­ple and find so­lu­tions to the im­pact of cli­mate change on the avail­abil­ity of the re­source.

Le­sotho was rep­re­sented at the fo­rum by Wa­ter Af­fairs Min­is­ter Ralechate ‘Mokose, Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary Kho­moat­sana Tau, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions.

In this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view, Le­sotho Times (LT) re­porter, Pas­cali­nah Kabi, speaks to the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity ( SADC) Se­nior Pro­gramme Of­fi­cer — Trans­bound­ary Wa­ter, Phera Ramoeli ( pic­tured), on the im­por­tance of achiev­ing th­ese multi-sec­toral goals.

LT: Briefly tell us about your­self.

Ramoeli: Born and bred in Le­sotho, Phera Ramoeli is the cur­rent head of the SADC Wa­ter Di­vi­sion with a back­ground in wa­ter re­sources man­age­ment and de­vel­op­ment at na­tional, basin and re­gional level. My ed­u­ca­tional back­ground is in science; I ma­jored in bi­ol­ogy and chem­istry in my first de­gree. I also hold a post grad­u­ate diploma in Op­er­a­tional Hy­drol­ogy and a mas­ter’s de­gree in Aquatic Re­sources Man­age­ment. I be­gan my ca­reer in the wa­ter sec­tor at the De­part­ment of Wa­ter Af­fairs as a trainee Hy­dro­ge­ol­o­gist be­fore tak­ing the po­si­tion full-time. I later on be­came the head of the Wa­ter Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Di­vi­sion.

I joined the SADC Wa­ter Sec­tor in 1997, after Le­sotho as­sumed the re­spon­si­bil­ity of co­or­di­nat­ing the SADC Wa­ter Sec­tor. A Wa­ter Sec­tor Co­or­di­nat­ing Unit (WSCU) was es­tab­lished in the Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources. I then be­came the head of this unit in 1999 un­til SADC re­struc­tured its in­sti­tu­tions and all sec­tors were trans­ferred from the mem­ber states and cen­tralised in five di­rec­torates at the SADC Sec­re­tariat in Gaborone, Botswana in 2003. The Wa­ter Sec­tor in this con­text falls within the Di­rec­torate of In­fra­struc­ture and Ser­vices to­gether with En­ergy, Trans­port, Me­te­o­rol­ogy, In­for­ma­tion Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Tech­nol­ogy, and Tourism.

Some of the key responsibilities of the SADC Wa­ter Di­vi­sion can be grouped into the fol­low­ing themes; co­or­di­na­tion of the re­gional wa­ter pro­gramme, fa­cil­i­ta­tion of the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the pro­gramme, pro­vid­ing the man­age­ment over­sight in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the pro­gramme, act­ing as an hon­est bro­ker be­tween mem­ber states es­pe­cially re­gard­ing co­op­er­a­tion on shared wa­ter­courses (rivers/lakes and ground­wa­ter basins), and pro­mot­ing co­op­er­a­tion be­tween mem­ber states in the util­i­sa­tion and man­age­ment of wa­ter re­sources of shared wa­ter­courses. We are also re­spon­si­ble for fa­cil­i­tat­ing re­source mo­bil­i­sa­tion for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the var­i­ous projects and pro­grammes.

LT: Why was it im­por­tant for SADC coun­tries to par­tic­i­pate in AWW, and how is this go­ing to ben­e­fit or­di­nary peo­ple in light of the SDG six which seeks to en­sure ev­ery­one has ac­cess to safe wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion by 2030?

Ramoeli: It was very im­por­tant for the SADC mem­ber states to par­tic­i­pate in the AWW and other re­lated meet­ings such as the African Min­is­ters’ Coun­cil on Wa­ter Tech­ni­cal Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee, Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee Meet­ings and the Gen­eral As­sem­bly. Th­ese gath­er­ings of­fer a plat­form for shar­ing best prac­tices and to learn from each other on the ap­pro­pri­ate strate­gies to fol­low in ad­dress­ing var­i­ous wa­ter chal­lenges fac­ing the con­ti­nent.

The AWW was struc­tured into var­i­ous sub-themes in which ideas were shared on per­ti­nent is­sues such as wa­ter sup­ply and san­i­ta­tion for all, wa­terer and san­i­ta­tion in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment, pment, trans­bound­ary wa­ter re­sources rces man­age­ment and de­vel­op­mentt and other rel­e­vant top­ics on wa­terter af­fect­ing each mem­ber state.te. Th­ese dis­cus­sions ul­ti­mate­lyy ben­e­fit the or­di­nary cit­i­zens in that the knowl­edge and in­for­ma­tion gath­ered is trans­formedns­formed into prac­ti­cal ap­proaches aches to im­prove ac­cess to bothth potable wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion ation ser­vices to the pop­u­la­tions tions in the re­spec­tive mem­ber mber states. The of­fi­cials who were in at­ten­dance will be able to bench­mark their heir own ef­forts against the bestst in the African con­ti­nent andd be­yond as the fo­rum was also graced by in­ter­na­tional ex­perts and prac­ti­tion­ers in the field of wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion.

LT: What strat­egy hasas SADC put in place to help its mem­ber em­ber states im­ple­ment the SDGS, es­pe­cially goal num­ber six on wa­ter, r, hy­giene and san­i­ta­tion (WASH)?

Ramoeli: The SADC sec­re­tariat, with the full par­tic­i­pa­tion of all mem­ber stat­es­tates has put to­gether a Re­gio­n­ional Strate­gic Ac­tion Plan an on In­te­grated Wa­ter Reesources Man­age­mentt and De­vel­op­mentt (R SAP-I WRMD) which con­tains sev­eral im­ple­men­ta­tion pro­grammes to as­sist mem­ber states achieve their SDGS with a spe­cific fo­cus on wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion. The RSAP is at its fourth phase, and has spe­cific pro­grammes and ac­tiv­i­ties that ad­dress three pil­lars of de­vel­op­ment in the wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion sec­tor namely; Strate­gic Wa­ter In­fra­struc­ture, Wa­ter Re­sources Man­age­ment and Wa­ter Gover­nance. In ad­di­tion to this pro­gramme, which is also the Wa­ter Sec­tor Chap­ter of the SADC Re­gional In­dica­tive Strate­gic De­vel­op­ment Plan, there is a Re­gional Cli­mate Change Adap­ta­tion Strat­egy for Wa­ter, the Aware­ness and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Strat­egy and the Pro­to­col of Shared Wa­ter­courses. The SADC Sec­re­tariat will fa­cil­i­tate the im­ple­men­ta­tion of th­ese pro­grammes, the co­or­di­na­tion of the mem­ber states’ in­puts, re­source mo­bil­i­sa­tion and fund­ing of the pro­gramme to­gether with mem­ber states.

LT: Are there any mech­a­nisms in place by the SADC Wa­ter Di­vi­sion to ad­dress the mem­ber states’ lim­ited fund­ing of the WASH sec­tor given that wa­ter is multi-sec­toral?

Ramoeli: With the sup­port of the African Wa­ter Fa­cil­ity (AWF), SADC im­ple­mented a project sup­port­ing wa­ter sup­ply and san­i­ta­tion pro­cesses in mem­ber states that came up with var­i­ous strate­gies and tools to fi­nance their wa­ter sup­ply and san­i­ta­tion ser­vices. The project also ad­dresses re­port­ing, mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion, in­sti­tu­tional strength­en­ing and co­or­di­na­tion. The out­comes of this project have been cir­cu­lated to all mem­ber states so they can start im­ple­ment­ing some of the strate­gies and in­no­va­tive ap­proaches in im­prov­ing ac­cess to wa­ter, san­i­ta­tion and hy­giene at na­tional lev­els. At a re­gional level, SADC has es­tab­lished a ded­i­cated wa­ter sup­ply and san­i­ta­tion sub­com­mit­tee where mem­ber states meet to dis­cuss strate­gic is­sues in the wa­ter sup­ply and san­i­ta­tion sec­tor. This will help im­prove co­or­di­na­tion among mem­bers and pro­vide best learn­ing prac­tices among mem­ber states.

LT: Since the in­tro­duc­tion of the SADC Wa­ter Sec­tor Gender Main­stream­ing Project, do you think women’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the wa­ter sec­tor in dif­fer­ent mem­ber states has in­creased in ac­cess to safe wa­ter, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and sus­tain­able wa­ter re­sources?

Ramoeli: This project was com­pleted last year, and we have not yet un­der­taken a com­pre­hen­sive as­sess­ment to de­ter­mine the ex­tent to which the gender main­stream­ing ex­er­cise has helped to im­prove ac­cess. One can say aware­ness ini­tia­tives were made, and each of the mem­ber states im­ple­mented spe­cific ac­tion plans to fa­cil­i­tate the in­creased and eq­ui­table par­tic­i­pa­tion by women and other vul­ner­a­ble groups in the wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion dis­course. It is now manda­tory for all mem­ber states, SADC and other im­ple­ment­ing part­ners that, when they re­port on wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion, their pre­sen­ta­tions are dis­ag­gre­gated into male and fe­male sta­tis­tics in ap­pro­pri­ate cir­cum­stances.

LT: SADC mem­ber states were hit by a se­vere El Nino-in­duced drought leav­ing mil­lions of peo­ple vul­ner­a­ble, not only in wa­ter, but agri­cul­ture and eco­nomic sec­tors. Is there any strat­egy in place to re­spond to fu­ture nat­u­ral dis­as­ters like drought?

Ramoeli: It very true the last rainy sea­son was tough for the re­gion, and we are cur­rently fac­ing a very se­ri­ous drought. In re­sponse to this, and at the be­hest of the chair­per­son of SADC (Botswana Pres­i­dent Ian Khama), a high level work­shop of min­is­ters re­spon­si­ble for wa­ter and en­ergy was con­vened in Gaborone, Botswana in June 2016. Some of the rec­om­men­da­tions from the work­shop and the sub­se­quent com­mit­ments of the re­spec­tive min­is­ters was to de­velop strate­gies and pro­grammes that will make the SADC re­gion more re­silient and bet­ter pre­pared to han­dle th­ese ex­treme events. As you may be aware, the re­gion is char­ac­terised by acute vari­abil­ity and change in the wa­ter sec­tor in both time and space. Droughts are of­ten fol­lowed by ex­treme floods, hence the need to man­age th­ese two ex­tremes com­pre­hen­sively. This is es­pe­cially im­por­tant with the ad­vent of cli­mate change and vari­abil­ity which has served to in­crease the un­cer­tainty in the pre­dic­tion and fore­cast­ing of th­ese events.

LT: What mea­sures have been put in place to ad­dress is­sues of san­i­ta­tion with re­gards to peo­ple who are phys­i­cally-chal­lenged in the re­gion? Is there any pol­icy be­ing used in Africa in gen­eral and SADC in par­tic­u­lar to re­spond to the needs of the phys­i­cally-chal­lenged?

Ramoeli: At the SADC level, and through the var­i­ous poli­cies that mem­ber states have adopted, there are spe­cific pro­vi­sions to ac­com­mo­date the needs of vul­ner­a­ble and phys­i­cally-chal­lenged peo­ple, es­pe­cially with re­gards to san­i­ta­tion which is also seen as a com­po­nent of hu­man dig­nity. Some of the strate­gies de­vel­oped in the Re­gional Wa­ter Sup­ply and San­i­ta­tion Pro­gramme re­volve around ap­pro­pri­ate tech­nolo­gies and in­no­va­tions to make sure there is eq­ui­table ben­e­fits and full par­tic­i­pa­tion by all in the area of san­i­ta­tion. What re­mains, and will need a lot of ef­fort from all con­cerned, is to en­sure th­ese are im­ple­mented fully.

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