Water4Virungas (W4V) is an Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) program in the Greater Virunga Landscape that contributes to the reduction of conflict and regional stabilization through increased access to quality water and improved watershed management at local, regional and transboundary levels.
The W4V story
The Virunga area is a fragile but strategic region that is slowly growing out of decades of civil unrest, conflict and instability, a situation that affects the entire region at local, national and transboundary levels across three countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.
In 2016, the Netherlands Embassy in Kigali, in close collaboration with the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC), launched a call for water related interventions that could contribute to conflict mitigation and a consortium of four partners - MDF Global, Wageningen University & Research, Witteveen + Bos and the International Gorilla Conservation Program - responded.
A concept note was submitted and accepted by the Embassy and, over the next several months, the partnership worked hard to create a four year programme that improves access to quality water in the Virunga Area and contributes to conflict reduction and regional stabilization: the Water4Virungas programme, which was officially launched in December 2016.
Water4Virungas' increases access to water and improves watershed management through an integrated approach, which means that solving the problem of water will go hand in hand with positive transformation of related conflicts. W4V promotes and facilitates collective action at various levels to:
1. Improve security, health and productivity at household level;
2. Bring people together around water issues within and between communities and across international borders;
3. Transform conflicts through improved service delivery of water and integrated water resource management.
Water4Virungas targets beneficiary communities which interact with the natural resources protected in the national parks in the Virunga Area, an area known for its mountain gorillas that is also subject to increasing high human population pressure.
Water4Virungas promotes a collaborative and holistic approach through the direct involvement of citizens and local governments and strengthens the capacity of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration to effectively address transboundary issues and conflicts. The W4V approach is built on three main drivers:
Inproving the service delivery by local authorities for all categories in the society.
Ensure an inclusive approach that spreads across local, regional and international levels.
Democratic dialogue among actors involved in water and natural resources governance
W4V directly involves citizens and local governments across borders.
The intervention area
W4V is implemented across three countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda in the Great Lakes region, where specific intervention areas have been chosen based on where W4V can have the most positive impact. The intervention area is positioned around the three national parks which are covering five volcanoes: the Virunga massif.
The areas where W4V has its activities are:
1. Democratic Republic of Congo: Chefferie de Bukumu (Groupement de Kibumba and Buhumba) and Chefferie de Bwisha (Groupement de Jomba, Bwesa, Kisigari, Rugari),
2. Rwanda: Rubavu, Nyabihu, Musanze and Burera Districts,
3. Uganda: Kisoro District (Nyarusiza and Muramba sub-counties).
W4V achievements so far
The first year of W4V was used to lay the foundations of the intervention. This included gathering and analysing data to set the criteria for the selection of the intervention areas and evaluating and learning from past water improvement efforts in order to design truly impactful activities.
Situation analysis and conflict mapping
The Virunga area is a complex area with frequent and multi-leveled conflicts. In its first year, W4V carried out a detailed situation analysis an mapped the most pressing water-related conflicts. These include conflicts related to access to water, within communities, between park authorities and local communities, between herders, farmers and population, with water delivery services, between authorities and at transboundary level.
The next step for W4V is to get a deeper understanding of the nature and causes of these conflicts and design approaches that can best help mitigate them.
stakeholder mapping and initial engagement
The Virunga area is home to very diverse stakeholders that are directly and indirectly involved or affected by the water-related conflicts that plague the region. With open dialogue and inclusion at the core of the programme and the aim to reduce current conflicts and avoid creating new ones, the W4V team spent the first year identiying and mapping key institutional, community and civil society actors and to create dialogue spaces to foster collaboration among them.
The next step for W4V is now to establish formal collaboration agreements with various organisations and Government bodies that will contribute to long-lasting, sustainable relationships.
W4V made a selection of the intervention sites based on the situation analysis and lessons learned from previous interventions. This selection includes sites where we can rehabilitate existing water sources and water pipes, design solutions to collect rainwater and pump water from lower elevations and implement measures to mitigate erosion and excess water.
Four locations have been selected:
1. The Gifurura source in DRC
2. The Kamira 5 source in DRC
3. The Chuho water supply scheme of NWSC near the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda
4. The Regina meadow in Uganda
The next step for W4V is to complete comprehensive feasibility studies for the proposed sites and get started with the actual interventions.
Although it would be technically easy to quickly develop rain water harvesting solutions, from a social-economic and political point of view, it is likely to create new conflicts if done without involving the right stakeholders and withouth official water committees, something that has happened with other interventions in the past.
Part of the problem is that the population in DRC are used to receive water for free and many stakeholders would like that to continue. However, W4V believes that a controlled payment system for water is a must to reach ownership and sustainability in water supply, ensuring the maintenance and sustainable access to water.
To test this belief, W4V is setting up a pilot area in some villages to construct rainwater harvesting tanks in order to test official functioning water committees and to build the confidence and collaboration with the population and the stakeholders (local authorities and water distributors) with controlled payment, benefitting all involved and where the population is taking ownership of access to water. This pilot should then be used as an example to be implemented in to other areas.