Transboundary water management in SADC

Project description

Title: Transboundary water management
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: SADC member states
Lead executing agency: Southern African Development Community (SADC)
Overall term: 2016 to 2019

SADC. The Chobe River in northern Botswana © GIZ


Renewable water resources in southern Africa amount to around 2,300 cubic kilometres annually, but these are distributed very unevenly across arid and tropical zones. Around 70 per cent of this water comes from transboundary rivers, and the remainder from lakes and groundwater. The majority of the annual resources are used for agricultural irrigation; however, demand from the industrial sector is growing and it is now the second-largest user.

According to data from the United Nations, only 62 per cent of the population in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has access to clean drinking water, and only 39 per cent has access to adequate sanitation facilities. The impacts of climate change make it even more difficult to manage the scarce and unequally distributed water resources. This means that the development of water infrastructure, particularly dams to store water and regulate levels, is becoming increasing important. The SADC member states have agreed on the principles of shared and integrated water resource management through international conventions and regional protocols. Numerous policies, plans and strategies have been drafted to this effect, but they have not yet been adequately put into practice.


The implementation of selected harmonised policies and strategies for transboundary cooperation in the water sector in the SADC region is improved.


GIZ is implementing the programme on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The UK Department for International Development (DFID) is providing cofinancing to cover half of the programme budget.

The programme supports SADC in implementing harmonised policies, strategies, guidelines and instruments for transboundary cooperation in the water sector. The objectives and activities are derived directly from the SADC Regional Integration Strategy as well as the associated regional plans of action of partners for the water sector. The intention is to strengthen and expand institutional, organisational and individual competencies and capacities for transboundary water resource management.

The programme focuses on establishing the necessary institutional and organisational framework and also on strengthening the technical and planning capacities of the partners. Together with the SADC Water Division, the programme is supporting regional dialogue among the member states as well as the development of competent institutions in the states along river basins. In addition, it is building up the national resources for planning and implementing infrastructure measures in the water sector.

The programme is working across three fields of activity:

  1. Infrastructure support. Plans are being developed to mobilise financial resources for water management and infrastructure development. The excellent experiences with development partnerships with the private sector in South Africa, Lesotho and Botswana are to be rolled out across the entire region.
  2. Development of river basin organisations. The programme aims to build the capacity of river basin organisations. Sustainable financing models will be piloted.
  3. Climate resilience of the population. Support is being provided to introduce disaster risk management instruments and products. This includes establishing a basis for effective flood prevention by collecting reliable hydrometeorological data and ensuring that the relevant decision-makers quickly share this information with the population.

Too few women are involved in decision-making processes concerning transboundary water management. This is a major hurdle that needs to be overcome on the road to achieving gender equality. The programme is therefore advising the SADC Water Division and the river basin organisations on implementing measures that directly include women in processes for shaping opinions and taking decisions.

Further information