Freshwater Action Network
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‘We are all downstream’ – Prof Oweyegha-Afunaduula on the African Water Stewardship Initiative

Professor Oweyegha-Afunaduula

Please welcome our latest guest blogger Professor Oweyegha-Afunaduula, Chairman of Nile Basin Discourse (NBD) and a member ANEW.He shares his experiences of his recent lobbying  success of committing the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) to host the new African Water Stewardship Initiative (AWSI).

I recently attended the Water Stewardship meeting in Brussels, which brought together international NGOs, water service providers and private sector organizations to (i) present a case for the water roundtable process; (ii) refine the proposed benefits and model for international water stewardship standards development; Build understanding and alignment on key global water use impacts;(iii) explain the proposed roadmap for creating multi-stakeholder standards; and (iv) describe engagement opportunities and invite participation in the water Roundtable and regional initiatives.

Unfortunately, governments were visibly absent. Even local communities were not represented. We were told that some governments had been invited. I think they did not show up because they suspected the Water Stewardship processes would interfere with their current interest of commodifying freshwater  and burdening the Africa’s rivers with increasingly huge dams. It is however, important that if water stewardship is to be effective all stakeholders, including local communities and governments are engaged in the process. AWSI will have to ensure that local communities are involved in its processes and that governments appreciate these processes not as roadblocks to development but critical to sustainability of freshwater sources on the continent.

I was initially not sure why the world needed the water stewardship process, but when it was explained that the ultimate goal is water sustainability I got interested. At NAPE I head a programme called Sustainability School, which among others would like to see resilient communities, in which water sustainability and security are at the core of their survival. I was convinced AWSI would add value to the sustainability efforts of NAPE’s Sustainability School. With this conviction I set out to ensure that NAPE contributed to and influenced the process Water Roundtable process.

By the way before I forget, beyond my NAPE dress I felt I was representing ANEW, FAN and NBD as well. I was four wrapped in one! Therefore, it was befitting that I participated. It will do well for AWSI to immediately connect with ANEW, FAN and NBD.  The contact person for ANEW and FAN is Nick Hepworth.  Since AWSI, like ANEW, FAN and NBD are all concerned with water, it would be interesting if they formed an Alliance on Water Sustainability in Africa. Why not call it African Water Sustainability Alliance (AWSA)?

An important outcome of the meeting was the agreement that regional water stewardship initiatives be formed as soon as possible. This resulted in the decision to set up the African Water Stewardship Initiative (AWSI) with promoting water sustainability in Africa as its primary goal. I think a focus on water sustainability is likely to encourage mainstreaming of sustainability in everything we do relating to water in a more holistic way.

Financial backing is being sought for the AWSI from donors, institutions and the private sector totals US$ 600,000 for a two year period, but seed funding of US$ 80,000 is already being sought to allow phased work to begin immediately.

When it came to suggesting where AWSI could be hosted and coordinated, I suggested that NAPE could offer sanctuary to new organisation. NAPE was the only NGO from Africa that attended the Water Round table. While the idea of AWSI was a logical outcome of the round table process, the name was actually coined by me. During a meeting of the Africa Group, we were asked whether we would be willing to host AWSI. I quickly said NAPE can host it and explained that the NGO has vast experience in hosting continental and regional organisations, and that it has been hosting and coordinating the African Rivers Network (ARN) for the last 3 years.

African Water Stewardship Initiative Summary June 2010

Find out more about the Alliance for Water Stewardship

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