Joining Forces to Promote Integrated Water Resources Management in the MENA Region

May 10, 2018 | By Arjun Avasthy

The regional WATER SUM workshop on the principles of integrated water resources management was the last and biggest in a series of three events concluding four years of project implementation in the MENA region. The event gathered over 90 participants from the water sector in the three beneficiary countries (Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia), as well as representatives of relevant national water authorities and institutions, local communities, civil society and academia.

The objectives of the workshop were to support regional cooperation and dialogue on water security challenges and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); explore opportunities, mechanisms and synergies in the water sector across the WATER SUM beneficiaries and the wider MENA region; share experiences and insights, ideas and solutions for sustainable water management; and discuss ways to promote planning and action among stakeholders operating at different levels in the water sector.

The event followed a strong participatory approach, using a dynamic methodology that featured lectures, group discussions and working group sessions to foster dialogue and cooperation among diverse actors who operate at different governance levels.

The workshop began with an introduction by Ms. Jovanka Ignjatovic, Mr. Danko Aleksic and Mr. Valerio Ponzo, after which the chairs, Mr. Moez Allaoui and Mr. Hani Abu-Qdais, opened the floor for presentations from the REC team. The presentations focused on access to water-related information; local-level contributions to achieving national/SDG 6 targets; gender equality considerations; and the contribution of marginalised groups to achieving national/SDG 6 targets. The level of interest among participants was high, with the presentations drewing a number of questions and comments. The topics were further elaborated in subsequent working group sessions.

At the end of day one, three groups were invited to identify challenges and opportunities in relation to access to water-related information; local-level contributions to achieving national/SDG 6 targets; and gender equality considerations and the contribution of marginalised groups to achieving national/SDG 6 targets. Each working group included representatives of all of the participating stakeholder groups, and all participants were actively involved in asking questions, analysing issues and policies, and thinking critically in order to identify ways to solve issues related to the assigned topic. The group sessions continued the following day, and the discussions were concluded with a presentation of the outcomes of each working group.

During the subsequent panel session “Leveraging WATER SUM project outcomes to advance regional dialogue and cooperation on water resources management and SDG 6 implementation”, representatives of each of the beneficiary countries presented project impacts and future ideas. The following main messages emerged:

  • The strong impact of WATER SUM has increased the capacities of multiple actors working across the water sector, especially national water authorities, local authorities and civil society.
  • The project has greatly supported capacity building, the transfer of existing know-how and the identification of synergies with other projects and programmes across the region.
  • WATER SUM has proved to be a very useful platform for enhancing regional cooperation through targeted activities; enabling continuous interactions between key water actors at several levels; and sharing lessons learned and good practices.
  • At local level, WATER SUM has assisted in developing a clear set of indicators related to water management that have helped local-level players to more concretely plan and implement water-related actions.
  • In the future, there should be a greater focus on building solid partnerships and introducing innovative tools (e.g. Living Labs).
  • Future actions could include capacity-building and awareness-raising activities targeting media representatives; trainings on legal aspects of water; and activities that connect climate change, water, and women and marginalised groups.

The beneficiary countries endorsed the WATER SUM project and thanked the project team for setting a fine example of water management and cooperation in the MENA region. They expressed their hope that the cooperation will continue to target many of the remaining issues in this sector.

Mr. Adel Y. Alobeiaat of the Ministry of Water and Irrigation of Jordan stated that “In my opinion, the project has greatly contributed towards raising the capacities of stakeholders in the water sector in Jordan…through many workshops, training sessions, study has also built the capacities of civil society, NGOs, municipalities…and for the first time, maybe, they were involved in water management issues in Jordan… We should not forget the pilot activities in the municipalities, which I hope will contribute to achieving water security in Jordan.” He also described how one of the greatest achievements of the WATER SUM project was to build on the existing knowledge and skills of water practitioners and engage stakeholders who previously had less access to capacity-building activities. He expressed his hope that the project’s successes will lead to increased and improved cooperation between the MENA countries in the future.

Representatives from the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation of Egypt also presented their impressions of the WATER SUM project and its achievements in their country, and expressed their wish for continued cooperation with the REC team in the future. They stated that Water SUM has managed to build capacities at many levels which will lead to long term benefits for the water governance in this country. The cooperation between institutions and the promotion of regional cooperation, were other achievements that representatives of Egypt considered as very successful outcomes of this project. Mr. Abdel Rahim Yehya from the Ministry, also explained Egypt's interest in engaging youth in water related initiatives, such as through training programs and organizing youth forums. He stated that the current focus of the Ministry and the State is youth empowerment.

Mr. Sofian Meddeb of the Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries of Tunisia expressed his gratitude to the entire WATER SUM team for their dedication in assisting countries to achieve sustainable water management goals. He described how he had learned a lot during the WATER SUM project by working with such a highly qualified team. Among the biggest successes of the WATER SUM project, according to Mr. Meddeb, were improving the knowledge and skills of engineers and other stakeholders involved in water management, and promoting cooperation between the three beneficiary countries — a cooperation that will only become stronger in the future. Mr. Hassen Lotfi Frigui, Director General, DG/RE - Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries of Tunisia, likewise expressed his gratitude for the contribution of the WATER SUM project to the water sector in Tunisia, and his hope for continued cooperation in the future.

The workshop concluded with a visit to the Oued Souhil area in the Nabeul Governorate, where the project “Adaptation to Climate Change through Improved Water Demand Management in Irrigated Agriculture by the Introduction of New Technologies and Best Agricultural Practices” was implemented under the ENPI CBC Mediterranean Sea Basin Programme.

Participants met with the Tunisian experts who worked at the pilot site, which is now equipped with a drip irrigation system that uses treated wastewater as the main source of irrigation water. Ten plots of fruit trees on the five-acre site have been irrigated using an innovative pumping system that includes the pre-filtration of treated wastewater and automatic fertiliser injection.

TAGS: WATER SUM | Water resources management | Regional cooperation | SDGs | MENA region | capacity building