World Water Day 2016 Statement by the WaterNet Trust Chairperson, Dr Lapologang Magole

22 March 2016

World Water Day 2016: Statement by Dr. Lapologang Magole, WaterNet Trust Chairperson

WaterNet is pleased to join the rest of the world in the commemoration of  the World Water Day today, 22 March 2016. I would like to call upon our network members and everyone in Eastern and Southern Africa to use the 2016 World Water Day to reflect on the critical freshwater issues of our era and regions. The World Water Day is an annual event celebrated globally on March 22. Let us today focus our attention on the importance of freshwater and advocate for its sustainable use and management.  Millions of people in Eastern and Southern Africa still lack access to clean water supply and basic sanitation. It is estimated that in Southern Africa alone, over 100 million people lack access to clean and safe water supply. The number of people lacking access to proper sanitation and hygiene services is much higher.  Several factors which include climate change, lack of investments in water supply and sanitation (due to limited financing) and poor water governance are behind the water insecurity that our regions are experiencing.

This year’s theme is water and jobs which coincides with a hard and difficult agricultural seasons where millions of farmers whose main occupation is rain-fed farming across Eastern and Southern Africa are reeling under the severe impact of the El-Nino-induced drought. This scenario has seen crops wilting in the fields and livestock being mercilessly decimated due to lack of water and pastures. The current El Niño is now the strongest on record, leaving millions in the path of severe droughts and destructive flooding, in some instances, which threaten the lives of families and children across the world in general and Eastern and Southern Africa in particular.

Such a scenario urgently calls for long-term measures to be put in place which cushion all water use sectors from the negative impacts of droughts and floods. WaterNet and its partners can play a critical role through education, research, professional training and outreach in coming up with measures that advance, enhance and  improve water security for both productive and domestic purposes. There is an urgent need for Eastern and Southern Africa to scale up technological development for agriculture, energy and sustainable domestic water supply to help mitigate the impact of climate change on the region’s poorest people and help communities become more resilient to future weather events.  

This year theme for the World Water Day of Water and Jobs is very befitting to the vision and mission of WaterNet which strives to build institutional and human capacity for effective water management in the Eastern and Southern African regions. Since its inception in 1999 WaterNet has made significant contributions to human capacity building for the water sector through its educational programme, i.e. the Regional Masters Programme in Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), and the PhD programme. The educational programme has seen over 300 graduates successfully completing the Regional Masters Programme in IWRM. Substantive contributions have also been achieved through the Professional Development programme which has seen over 1200 professionals from the water sector benefiting from relevant short professional courses. These two programmes have made substantial contributions to the people working in water use sectors in Eastern and Southern Africa. WaterNet’s research and outreach programmes are also key in ensuring sustainable water resources management in our regions. 

WaterNet will continue to strive to build the human capacity for water resources development and management in Eastern and Southern Africa. The Network will also strive to create a platform for all stakeholders including and especially our governments and the private sector to play their part in this endeavour. We will aim at contributing towards the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals most of which have a direct relationship with water security in general and freshwater resources in particular.

Every drop counts! Count every drop!