A Groundwater and Drought Management Institute of Southern Africa (GMISA) on the cards
The SADC Groundwater and Drought Management Project is facilitating the establishment of a Groundwater Management Institute of Southern Africa (GMISA) which is expected to be operational by June 2009.
Background to GMISA
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has the goal of fostering cooperation and mutual benefit from the resources of the region amongst its member countries. Through this mutual goal SADC has identified water as a key resource that can benefit from fostered cooperation.
The development and management of water resources in SADC Member States has traditionally focused on surface waters. However, the major source of water, especially for the rural population of Sub-Saharan Africa, is groundwater and in particular in the SADC region, approximately 33% of the population relying on formal or improved groundwater supplies and 27% on reticulated supplies from surface water sources. The remaining 40% rely on unimproved sources, either groundwater or surface water which is generally considered unsafe and hence they are typically more vulnerable to drought.
Groundwater management is complex and sustainable development of this resource is challenging, particularly with respect to shared, or transboundary sources. This is further hampered by the lack of joint monitoring and a lack of understanding of the nature, issues and impacts for the associated groundwater and surface water resources, or of the opportunities for cooperation. Groundwater has always been thought of as a safety valve during droughts and with recurrent droughts, increased aridity, global warming, increasing populations and economic growth in the region there is an increasing dependency on groundwater for domestic water use and other sectors such as industry, agriculture, mining, and tourism.
Recognizing the importance of groundwater resources, the SADC Regional Strategic Water Action Plan includes a regional Groundwater Management Programme (GMP); The overall objective of the GMP is to promote the sustainable development of groundwater resources at a regional level, incorporating research, assessment, exploitation and protection, particularly related to groundwater drought management. This is intended to address the regional need for capacity building of groundwater practitioners, increase awareness on groundwater, develop a repository of groundwater information and data as well as provide support for groundwater management.
Based on the issues and challenges facing the SADC region, the GMP identified the need for an institution to raise the understanding of groundwater management through research, knowledge management, coordination and capacity building. It is envisaged that this institution, will be established as the Groundwater Management Institute of Southern African (GMISA) and will address issues of concern and become a center of excellence in groundwater in the SADC region and internationally. This institution’s intended vision is to “ensure the equitable and sustainable use and protection of groundwater, as well as being a centre of excellence in the areas of groundwater drought management and management of groundwater dependant ecosystems in the region”.
The SADC Groundwater and Drought Management Project, supported by The Global Environmental Facility (GEF) is one of ten sub-projects under the GMP. The project will address the need for the SADC Member States to develop a strategic regional approach to support and enhance the capacity of the Member States in the definition of groundwater drought management policies, specifically in relation to the role, availability (magnitude and recharge) and supply potential of groundwater resources (as a portion of the overall water resource). This will assist in reconciling the demands for socio-economic development and those of the principal groundwater-dependent ecosystems. Among its activities this project will develop and establish the GMISA in a host institution.
The objectives of this concept paper are to outline the objectives of the GMISA and the presentation of the schedule need to support establishing the GMISA within the time frame of the project. These include:
PSC re-endorsement GMISA (November 30, 2007).
Host institution identified (April 15, 2008).
WRTC endorses the GMISA host institution shortlist (April 30, 2008).
Senior Officials endorse host institution shortlist for GMISA (June 30, 2008).
Integrated Council of Ministers recommend short listed host institutions for GMISA to the Summit (June 30, 2008).
SADC Summit (August 17 2008) approves recommended host institutions.
The GMISA is expected to take a lead role in regional groundwater and groundwater drought management, provide continuity of the SADC GDMP’s (the Project) research program and continue generating data and information from the Project’s pilot areas, prioritized transboundary aquifers and groundwater dependent ecosystems. The GMISA will be hosted by an existing regional institution with existing expertise in groundwater and supported through the Groundwater Drought Monitoring Fund (GDMF) with an initial endowment of US$500,000. The GMISA will have the following objectives:
Dissemination and Awareness Raising: To raise the level of understanding on groundwater benefits, and groundwater drought in the SADC region, through the development and maintenance of a long-term regional awareness and capacity to address groundwater drought; Action-oriented Research: To institute, implement and facilitate research in the areas of groundwater, groundwater drought and it’s management;
Knowledge Management: To provide a regional center for the management of information on groundwater, groundwater drought and its management in the SADC region, through the provision of a repository of data, concepts and lessons learnt from the Project and to maintain the set up systems;
Coordination: To provide a regional focal point for the coordination of groundwater activities in the SADC region;
Financing: Provide a mechanism for soliciting and managing funds in support of groundwater research, development and management in the SADC region; and,
Capacity: To build regional capacity in the research, development and management of groundwater resources in the SADC region.
The GMISA will provide a regional integrated focal point for other groundwater projects and institutions that will coordinate with government departments, and regional and international organizations focusing on groundwater and its management. These could include the International Groundwater Resource Assessment Centre (IGRAC) established by UNESCO in the Netherlands, the Internationally Shared Aquifer Resources Management (ISARM) based in Namibia, the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa, and Institute for Water and Sanitation Development (IWSD) in Zimbabwe, and the SADC Drought Monitoring Centre in Namibia
Identification and selection of GMISA host institution
The GMISA is not envisioned to be created as a whole new fully flagged structure replacing, replicating or competing with existing regional groundwater centers. It is envisaged that initially the GMISA title could be attached to an existing academic Chair of one of the departments (hydrogeology, civil engineering, natural resources etc) in an institution of higher learning or research. It is proposed that the GMISA will augment the capacity of an existing institution. The GMISA will afford the host institution recognition of being a regional center of groundwater excellence for the SADC region.
The GMISA will be established with initial support from the Project together with in-kind support from the host institution. The data and knowledge derived during the Project will also comprise significant inputs to the establishment of the institution. The GMISA will be created as part of the Project; in addition the GMISA will be supported for the first five years by a Groundwater Drought Monitoring Fund (GDMF), which aims to ensure the sustainability of the Institute and outputs into the future. It is envisaged that the GMISA will be initially a small efficient streamlined organization that may grow with time as its research, products and influence expands.