The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved the Horn of Africa Ground Water for Resilience Project (HoAGWRP), a new multi-phase project benefitting from $385 million in International Development Association (IDA) financing that will boost the region’s capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 74 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa.
The World Bank says resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.3 billion people who live in IDA countries, and that since 1960, IDA has provided $458 billion to 114 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $29 billion over the last three years (FY19-FY21), with about 70 percent going to Africa.
The project fosters cooperation with Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), who will work together to tap into the region’s largely untapped groundwater resources to cope with and adapt to drought and other climate stressors impacting their vulnerable borderlands. Djibouti and South Sudan have also expressed interest in joining the program in subsequent phases.
“Groundwater constitutes a natural buffer against climate variability and change, as it is available in times of drought when other surface or subsurface resources are scarce,” said Daher Elmi Housssein, IGAD’s Director of Agriculture and Environment Division. “The potential is vast, and we are committed to building inclusive community-level use of this shared resource, along with better information, infrastructure, and institutions to ensure our groundwater is sustainably managed for generations to come.”
This first phase of the HoA Groundwater for Resilience Program (GW4R) is estimated to reach 3.3 million direct beneficiaries, of whom at least 50 percent are women, through interventions designed to increase access to water supply and reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts. It will also contribute to improving food security in a region undergoing a severe drought. Project beneficiaries also include institutions responsible for groundwater management, including line ministries, government agencies, national authorities, and agencies at the national and sub-national levels.
In the short term, the project will establish the building blocks that will enable the medium and long-term agenda of improving transboundary water management in the Horn of Africa. IGAD will play a central role as the main promoter and facilitator of the long-term regional strategy, including data and information sharing. First-phase activities will include constructing medium and small-scale infrastructure to provide sustainable access to groundwater resources in the borderlands, developing information and knowledge on regional aquifers, and building institutional capacity on groundwater management and governance.
“World Bank experience shows that gaining knowledge on aquifers, building trust around shared groundwater resources, and jointly developing groundwater management mechanisms among countries involve a long-term trajectory that needs to be approached gradually. The role of a regional institution is key to achieving synergies, sustainability, and economies of scale,” said Boutheina Guermazi, World Bank Director for Regional Integration for Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Northern Africa.
Adopting a robust approach to monitoring and learning is critical throughout the stages mentioned above, to ensure incremental and enhanced institutional capacity, trust and collaboration. Program outcomes will be further strengthened through the support of the Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) Program, aimed at enhancing the HoA’s institutional capacity and knowledge base on sustainable groundwater management in the borderlands.