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Freshwater Ecosystems


Lake Faguibine: Restoring a lifeline
Mali’s Lake Faguibine dried up in the 1970s with far-reaching implications for the livelihoods of more than 200,000 people living in its hinterland. The local communities were forced to abandon their traditional livelihoods, which revolved around agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishery. 

The inflows to Lake Faguibine are mainly from the Niger River’s flood waters.  During prolonged rainfall in the Fouta Djalon highlands in Guinea, the Niger River floods and forces water to flow through two channels into the lake 

Unfortunately, climate change has led to erratic rainfall patterns as well as advancing the Sahara desert southward Sand dunes block parts of the channels, thereby preventing the replenishment of Lake Faguibine. In addition, the little water that is still flowing in the channels is used for various purposes. Upstream, people use the water for large scale irrigation and to produce hydropower   All these factors combine to deprive Lake Faguibine of much needed water

At the request of the Government of Mali, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is implementing a project to rehabilitate the Lake Faguibine ecosystem.

This project follows in the footsteps of UNEP’s successful ecosystem rehabilitation of the Iraqi Marshlands, the world’s largest wetland ecosystems. The Marshland was rehabilitated through reflooding resulting in widespread increase in vegetation cover and increased accessibility to clean, drinking water for more than 100,000 people living in or near the Marshlands 

In Mali, UNEP is working with local partners to sensitise communities upstream and downstream on the need to regulate and preserve the water flow in the Niger River and in the channels. The project’s participatory management planning will reconcile upstream and downstream competition for water, for equitable human wellbeing The Lake Faguibine ecosystem restoration project involves re-flooding of the lake’s 600 square kilometers. A rehabilitated Lake Faguibine will re-energize the delivery of the lake’s ecosystem services. For instance shery was once estimated at 5,000 tons annually Its restoration will boost livelihoods of local fishermen and provide food to thousands of people as well as migratory water birds 

The restored ecosystem will also revive recession agriculture along the lake’s coastlines. Produce from livestock, farming, and fishing will be transported through invigorated water transport

Ecosystem Management for improved Human Well-Being in the Lake Faguibine System: conflict mitigation and adaptation to climate change

Lake Faguibine (Africa: Atlas of our changing environment)

Climate Change and Variability in the Sahel Region: Impacts and Adaptation Strategies in the Agricultural Sector

Key Facts
  • Mali has over 12 million people
  • At 1 24 million square kilometers Mali is one of the largest countries in Africa
  • Only 3 8 percent of the country’s land is arable
  • At its fullest, Lake Faguibine ranks among the largest lakes in West Africa; covering at least 590 square kilometers (in 1974)
  • USD 12 million - 15 million the estimated cost of rehabilitating Lake Faguibine ecosystem
Rainwater: Catch it While You Can (A Handbook on Rainwater Harvesting in the Caribbean)
Rainwater: Catch it While You Can (A Handbook on Rainwater Harvesting in the Caribbean)

Replenishing ecosystems with rainwater
Many countries suffering from water shortages ironically have a high potential for rainwater harvesting. For instance, Ethiopia and Kenya are capable of meeting up to six times the water needs of their current populations all rainfall is harvested for drinking and agricultural uses. A third is needed for ecosystem sustenance-forests, grasslands and healthy river flows. Rainwater harvesting at a wider scale provides a buffer against climate-change impacts such as floods and droughts livelihoods of local communities

Unlike large dams which have high evaporation, small scale earth-pans and ponds keep water for long periods. This contributes to groundwater recharging as well as replenishing environmental flows that are critical for healthy ecosystems all rainfall is harvested for drinking and agricultural.

UNEP’s rainwater harvesting projects have changed the way rain is perceived in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean regions UNEP is supporting several countries in these regions to adopt rainwater harvesting for ecosystem sustenance, and to improve. More than half-a-million people in Kenya’s Kajiado District are now able to harvest rainwater for domestic use, ecosystem regeneration, and other productive  purposes  UNEP’s project in Antigua and Barbuda  further demonstrates the use of rainwater in recharging  groundwater aquifers 

Capacity building is a central aspect in UNEP’s interventions Rainwater harvesting projects in Nicaragua and Guatemala focus on developing the capacity of rural and indigenous communities, especially women, to benefit from rainwater to meet domestic water needs, as well as increase agricultural production for improved livelihoods

The ecosystem benefits accruing from rainwater harvesting were clearly demonstrated in the Philippines when Typhoon Frank struck in July 2008. The typhoon killed 200 people, displaced many others, and caused landslides and flooding that washed away rice fields. However, the impacts were minimal in the Tigum project was implemented. The ponds and terraces constructed by communities regulated the flood water. Also, following the pollution of water sources by the typhoon, rainwater was the only source of safe drinking water thus protecting communities from contracting water-borne diseases  

The communities in Kenya, Philippines, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Antigua and Barbuda attest to the World Water vision that, “the real revolution in water resource  management will come when stakeholders have the power to manage their own resources “Aganan catchment area where the rainwater harvesting 


Key Facts

  • Estimated: 2 out of every 3 people in the world will live in water-stressed areas by the year 2025
  • In 2004 UNEP facilitated the establishment of the Rainwater Partnership to promote and mainstream rainwater harvesting activities
  • UNEP developed digital maps of rainwater harvesting potential of 9 African countries: Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe (see “http://www unep org/rainwater/Maps”)
  • 874 million hectares of land in Africa could bene t from increased agricultural production by increasing the managed use of water

Developing Liberia's water policy

“There are diverse and often conflicting interests in the provision and  management of water  The institutional mechanisms for delivering  sustainable water management appear inadequate  Yet the world can no longer a  afford to relegate action on water to the fringes ”
Achim Steiner, Executive Director,  
United Nations Environment Programme

Liberia’s fourteen year civil war, which ended in 2003 led to a humanitarian catastrophe. It led to multiple internal displacements of hundreds of thousands of people, disrupted supply of basic social services, increased the vulnerability of women and children to extreme poverty, hunger, disease, and practically destroyed its infrastructure. Facilities such as the Mount Coffee Water Plant responsible for the supply of drinking water to 600,000 people in Monrovia and several surrounding towns were destroyed. As a result, deaths due to water borne diseases remained high. And, this situation was expected to possibly deteriorate further as populations returning to these areas were expected to increase.

In 2005, Liberia requested UNEP’s assistance in developing a long-term and sustainable water management policy to guarantee good quality and sufficient supply of drinking water and industrial water, and safeguarding all water resources 

UNEP organized a multi-stakeholder committee comprised of representatives from relevant Government agencies, NGO´s, UN agencies, the European Union and the private sector to oversee the development of the water policy UNICEF along with UNDP backstopped the work of this committee through the provision of financial and technical support 

To enhance Liberia’s national capacity in the development and implementation of its water policy, UNEP facilitated national and regional training workshops for country water experts and government officials. The regional workshops provided Liberia with a chance to learn from the water policy experiences of other West African countries that share international water catchments with Liberia  

As a result of UNEP’s efforts, Liberia’s national water management policy is now a reality. The policy has been subjected to a participatory review in meetings of stakeholders at the national level Liberia’s improved management of water resources will be essential for achieving broader economic development goals

Key Facts
  • Liberia covers 111,369 square kilometers
  • Population is estimated at 3 5 million
  • It has abundant surface water in six watersheds: Cavalla, Cestos, Lofa,
  • Mano, Saint John and Saint Paul
  • UNEP conducted post-con ict environmental assessment after 14 year of civil war in 2003
  • Liberia did not meet the Millennium Development Goals target of developing national Integrated Water Resources Management plan by 2005

A common approach in adapting to climate change
Climate change is one of the most pressing global issue of the day Its impacts weigh heavily on the resilience of many ecosystems Climate change  has long term impacts including more frequent and  heavy  floods, prolonged droughts and erratic rainfall. These impacts further affect food production as many  countries depend on rain-fed agriculture   

Most developing countries lack the capacity to develop and implement adaptive measures to cope with climate change impacts towards identifying adaptation needs that can be In response to this need, UNEP is supporting developing countries to build their capacity for collective, timely and efficient adaptation to climate change UNEP’s climate change adaptation strategy focuses on building the resilience of ecosystems and economies that are most vulnerable to climate change. 

UNEP is implementing quite a number of adaptation projects in several regions   through its engagement with and support to local communities, UNEP is working addressed through illustrative adaptation measures. For instance UNEP is promoting the sustainable development of the Central Karakorum National Park of Northern Pakistan through better coordination of ongoing initiatives, development and implementation of an integrated management plan, as well as setting up knowledge management and environmental monitoring systems, The project, which is funded by the Government of Italy, also promotes awareness raising activities geared towards decision makers.

A similar project is being implemented in the Mt. Kailash Sacred Landscape in the Himalayas with support from the Government of Norway. The project’s main objective is to initiate and promote transboundary climate change adaptation mechanisms within this unique landscape shared by Nepal, China, and India. A regional Cooperation Framework (RCF) will be developed through a consultative process in line with the Mountain Biodiversity Goals of the UN Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD) 

Key Facts
  • UNEP and WMO host the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
  • UNEP has supported countries to develop National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA’s), and is now working with countries to implement the identi ed priorities
  • Many countries have been assisted to undertake Technology needs and National capacity needs assessments
  • The UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Scienti c and Technological Advice (SBSTA) atits 28th session recognized that regional centres and networks undertaking work relevant to climate change play an important role in enhancing adaptation

UNEP is further spearheading the development of a  Global Climate Change Adaptation Network to further  leverage and unify adaptation efforts   The Network’s  primary goal is to help developing countries increase  their key adaptive capacity by mobilizing available  knowledge and technologies  Composed of ground  facilities, regional centres and an international support  group of technical institutions and experts, the Network  will mobilise scientifically credible and policy relevant  information for decision making 

The Network will enhance collaboration between sectors and regions and also help facilitate the sharing of best practices and lessons learnt. As networking unfolds, core competencies will be converged and directed towards developing long-term responsive climate change adaptation measures