Restoring a shrinking giant – a cooperation between GIZ and AFROSAI

By Tassilo von Droste zu Hülshoff and Nicolas Bretin

Niger’s prime minister: “Lake Chad, one of Africa’s most pressing environmental challenges”

His face wrapped in a white tagelmust (turban) Niger’s Prime Minister, Brigi Rafini, has come in person. It is another sunny winter day in Niamey, the country’s capital that owes everything to the mighty river Niger that like a green ribbon cuts across yellow land. “Water is life” states Matthias Witt, the Programme Manager in charge of the Good Financial Governance in Africa Programme. “Here at the fringe of the Sahel and the Sahara this is truer than anywhere else” he adds, before giving the floor to Rafini.

About 1,500 km east of Niamey, a unique ecosystem is drying up at an alarming pace: Lake Chad. In a region shaken by Boko Haram’s terrorist attacks, the tragedy of Lake Chad is increasingly receiving attention by policy makers. GIZ’s Good Financial Governance in Africa Programme has supported an environmental audit, which aims at proposing solutions for improved water management.

Rafini, a Tuareg, doesn’t mince his words: “The continuous shrinking of Lake Chad is due to droughts, anarchic water exploitation and strong demographic pressure. Natural and human factors have considerably degraded the environment of the Basin.” More than 30 million people depend on the basin’s water resources for a livelihood: the lake is the very breadbasket and economic anchor of this region highly affected by extreme poverty. But whilst the population growth is tremendous with the highest fertility rate in the world –more than seven children per women - water resources are vanishing. “In Niger the lake’s surface has gone down from 3,000 km2 to 1 km2” states Rafini, quoting an alarming figure from the audit report that the Audit Court of Niger has compiled for the government.

Supreme Audit Institutions from four countries join forces

Over the past 50 years Lake Chad has lost over 90% of its surface and today hardly covers 2,500 km2 when it was covering 25,000 km2 in the early 1960s. Despite the creation of a regional organisation the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), the drying up of the lake could not be countered. At the current pace, it is estimated that the lake could disappear in 20 years time.

Against this background, the Supreme Audit Institutions of the riparian countries of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria decided to join forces launching a major environmental audit on the drying up of Lake Chad. The project was initiated under the auspices of AFROSAI, the African Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions and has been supported by GIZ’s Good Financial Governance in Africa Programme from its very beginning on in 2012. GIZ has provided technical advice in the planning and the implementation of the project, and fostered peer-learning via involving experienced environment auditors from Kenya, Tanzania and Morocco.

The audit aims to assess whether the four countries and the LCBC effectively implemented monitoring and control systems that guarantee the sustainable management of water resources in the Lake Chad basin.

Within the framework of this project, all public institutions and main stakeholders concerned with the issue of water use and management have been audited. Five reports were drafted: one per country and one joint report on the LCBC. Key findings were highlighted and recommendations for improved water management formulated. To ensure that the recommendations are implemented it is crucial to effectively communicate the results to all relevant stakeholders, notably governments, civil society, international organisations and the media.

Focus on Communication to strengthen impact

In Niamey the four Supreme audit institutions have come together to sharpen their arguments to convince stakeholders on the urgency to act. Over four days, the audit teams from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria worked on preparing a comprehensive communication strategy for an effective dissemination of the audit findings. The impact of the audit reports will very much depend on how well their recommendations are explained to all major actors. Each country did a stakeholders’ landscape to identify on whom the communication should be focused, identified key messages to be communicated, selected the different communication channels and tools they would mobilize in order to reach their audience.

One stakeholder the auditors don’t need to convince anymore is the President of the Republic of Niger, Mr. Issoufou Mahamadou who received the audit team at the Presidential Palace on the 15th of January 2015. This illustrates the importance of the project for Niger and the region.

The next highlight of the project will be the presentation of the final joint report to stakeholders in Ndjamena, Chad, at the end of March 2015.

For further information please contact: Dr Matthias Witt (matthias.witt@giz.de) and Mr Tassilo von Droste zu Hülshoff (tassilo.droste@giz.de)

                                                        
The audit team poses with the President of the Republic of Niger, Mr Issoufou Mahamadou (center, in white) in front of the Presidential Pala
                                                        
The Kouri: a cattle breed from Lake Chad under threat of extinction.