October 22, 2014

Malawi: Farmers Turn to Climate-Smart Agriculture to Outsmart Climate Change

George Mhango
October 22, 2014

Mable Msukwa, 20, a teaching student at Amalika TTC in Thyolo—Southern Region of Malawi— has had reservations for the Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme [FISP] or you may call it fertiliser subsidy programme.

Msukwa thinks that the programme dilutes soil fertility, depends heavily on good rainfall pattern and contributes to conflicts between ruling party zealots and the opposition on how beneficiaries are identified.

Mable Msukwa, a teaching student

Mable Msukwa, a teaching student

During the 2013/2014 some traditional leaders and some ruling party officials were arrested in connection with alleged corruption-related issues in how they distributed the coupons used by any beneficiary to procure fertiliser.

Said Msukwa: “If Malawi experiences droughts then the whole fertiliser project, pegged at $113 million this year, would be a flop; hence, the need for experts and scientists to search for alternatives in view of climate change effects on agriculture.”

This is why Msukwa is advocating for potholing system through farmers clubs championed by Development Aid from People to People [DAPP] in its catchment areas. DAPP operates in Malawi’s three regions providing education, agriculture, health and business projects.

The system complements Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) championed by New Economic Partnership for Africa development (NEPAD) through Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more severe, threatening the reliability and productivity of agriculture, exacerbating already extreme levels of poverty, and reinforcing persistent inequity and chronic under-nutrition.

And now Malawi has demonstrated that such problems can only be solved through the widespread adoption of more resilient, productive, sustainable, equitable and increasingly efficient farming practices in line with CAADP’s initiative through Climate Smart Agriculture.

During a recent training workshop for journalists in Nairobi, Kenya, NEPAD officials—said adopting Climate-Smart Agriculture practices can reduce the risks faced by smallholder farmers, as well as mitigate the effects of extreme weather events on farms.

To substantiate this, DAPP in Malawi started implementing the system through farmers clubs in 2006 in Lilongwe, Chiradzulu and Zomba with funding from the US Department of Agriculture, before it took the concept to Thyolo District recently.

As it stands now, various students in DAPP training colleges are working on the system with communities surrounding colleges. For example, Luka Black and other farmers from Village Head Madulira in Senior Chief Kadewere in Chiradzulu have adopted the system.

“As farmers we are organised into groups with the help of student teachers and DAPP agriculture field officers where we share information, peer support and facilitate resource pooling to bolster marketing and financing.

“Since DAPP offered us training for three years we are able to stand on our own through potholing system. We don’t depend on fertiliser but manure and water pumps,” says Black.

Initially, the potholing system does not require fertilisers and rain water, but rather, irrigation of crops using rope pumps installed by farmers clubs also being advocated for by other organisations.

Instead of using government’s extension officers, DAPP uses graduate students and farm instructors to spread the farming technique to communities on how to handle the system.

“We dig holes 15 by 30 centimeters and 15 centimeters deep. We dig holes and encourage matching to conserve moisture, which takes a week to dry. It also saves time in that the hole can be used for three times,” states Tione Banda one of the DAPP trained farm instructors.

In DAPP colleges, the programme has proved to be cost effective with big increases in the value of the crops farmers harvest year-on-year compared to the investment in the programme.

“These pumps are locally made and installed close to gardens. With this potholing system, I plant maize and any other crop during the winter and rain-fed seasons. I transfer this knowledge each time there is a school holiday,” says Msukwa.

Cost Effectiveness of Potholing Farming System

Msukwa and colleagues have their own maize, beans and vegetable farms where potholing farming system is practised. Harvests sustain the college and are an income generating activity for students.

Unlike other government training colleges which buy food stuff, DAPP colleges rarely buy beans, maize and vegetables for their upkeep based on field visits to DAPP colleges.

“We dig holes and put compost manure we make ourselves in the holes before planting crops. We irrigate those holes with rope-pump water to let the crops grow. Since manure is already there, we don’t worry about fertiliser,” she says.

Research by DAPP shows that since the introduction of the model average production increased by 24 percent. DAPP country director Lisbeth Thomsen says production increased from basically non-existent to 55 kilogrammes per person in the families of those participating in the farmers club. Those participating in the clubs are also asked to form cooperatives so they are self-reliant.

“With the potholing system production has increased from 120 per cent to 250 per cent in the recent past. People have more food as well,”

The production corresponds with the needed consumption for families according to standards set by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for a diet that is sufficient with regards to calories and nutritional quality.

Lisbeth Thomsen, Malawi DAPP Director

Lisbeth Thomsen, Malawi DAPP Director

Thomsen says: “The initial 12 000 farmers have increased the area cultivated from 14 000 hectare to 21 000 hectares. Not only that, 6 000 families have improved their access to clean water and build new toilets.”

Future of Potholing System
The system has already attracted the blessings of the Malawi Government solely because it uses low cost farming model with tangible results even without the use of fertiliser.

DAPP as project implementers have since signed a memorandum of understanding with the Malawi Government to scale up the programme across the country depending on funding from donors.

Ephraim Nyondo, a social commentator said during his visit to DAPP colleges in Thyolo and Chiradzulu that the project be replicated in other areas.

“Could DAPP open more colleges to replicate this to other areas? With soaring prices of fertiliser, who knows compost manure could be the solution due to its cost effectiveness,” says Nyondo.

Currently, with the potholing system, 69 per cent of farmers produce more than eight different crops, 89 per cent of farmers are food secure and that 75 per cent of farmers engage in business.

Benefits of the Potholing System

Benefits of the Potholing System

While the authorities in Malawi are poised to adopt the system in the nearly, the “AU-NEPAD-Ingo Alliance for Scaling-Up Climate-Smart Agriculture in Africa”, or “Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance”, is designed to support the rapid scaling-up of Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) across Africa, through the collaborative efforts and practical, on-the-ground experience of Alliance members in agricultural research and implementation.

The Alliance aims to support the uptake of CSA practices and approaches by at least six million farming households by 2021, contributing to the African Union’s broader goal of supporting 25 million farm households by 2025.

With Malawi’s population hovering at 14 million and 80 per cent living in rural areas, agricultural experts feel the adoption of the system would help upset the dependency on fertiliser and rainfall in view of climate change effects on agricultural production.

October 11, 2014

CCDA-IV: African Journalists Vow to Bring Climate Change Issues Closer to People

Violet Mengo
October 11, 2014

Journalists attending the fourth conference on climate change and development in Morocco have unanimously agreed that their involvement in dissemination of information on climate change will enhance Africa’s chances of feeding the continent.

In exclusive interview with media personnel in the newsroom at the conference, journalists echoed out their importance in the dissemination of timely and correct information to the public.

Journalists at CCDA-IV in Morocco. They belong to the Pan African Media Alliance for Climate Change (PAMACC), an association of African Journalists who report on climate change

Journalists at CCDA-IV in Morocco. They belong to the Pan African Media Alliance for Climate Change (PAMACC), an association of African Journalists who report on climate change

Emmanuel .K. Bensah, a journalist from Ghana says knowledge is not just plugged but come through a process of learning.

“For journalists to be effective in their work, they need capacity building training that will accord them the skill required to disseminate climate change information which would in turn make people especially farmers make informed decision,” Bensah says.

Bensah says climate change is a development issue and journalists therefore need to move beyond politics in their reporting and bring climate change closer to the people who are mostly affected by it.

He says with special training and having experts on board that consistently provide the media with information, it will result in the people knowing much about climate change and relate with the weather patterns that keeps changing.

“One key aspect that we as media experts need to bring out is the human aspect of climate change and this does not just happen it takes skill and knowhow that can only be attained through training,” he says.

Bensah commended the United Nations Economic Commission for the pre training accorded for media people to learn about Africa and how the continent can be able to feed the continent.

Journalists Kaah Aaron and Kofi Adu Domfeh interviewing Dr. Abdellatif working with IPCC adaptation group. This was during the CCDA-IV in Morocco

Journalists Kaah Aaron and Kofi Adu Domfeh interviewing Dr. Abdellatif working with IPCC adaptation group. This was during the CCDA-IV in Morocco

Apollinaire Niyiri from Burundi says disturbances in the form of floods and droughts affect people’s lives so much that journalists become a vital component in dissemination of information.

Niyiri says with information vested in journalists’ early warning messages and bad practices will be discouraged and creating awareness in people on some of the best practices that need to be adopted.

“We have heard and seen the effects of deforestation, erosion and bad agricultural practices done by people in Africa and how they have contributed to changes in weather pattern. It is possible that our voice as journalists can reach those that are involved in bad practices and in turn enhance productivity” Niyiri says.

And Annie Sampa from Zambia says it is the duty of journalists to show that some activity that people are involved can impact negatively on future generations.

“Feeding Africa will require that correct information is given out the people at the right time and this can only be done by the journalist,” Sampa says.

October 11, 2014

CCDA-IV: AfDB launches €33million ClimDev Africa Special Fund

Kofi Adu Domfeh
October 11, 2014

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has launched a €33million Fund on the sidelines of the Fourth Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA-IV) in Marrakesh, Morocco.

The ClimDev Africa Special Fund is aimed at building regional capacities in climate information gathering and dissemination to overcome challenges posed by climate change.

The first ‘Call for Proposals’ offers private and public sector institutions and organizations the opportunity to access financing to build viable, reliable and regular climate information sources.

Coordinator for Special Initiatives at the AfDB, Ken Johm, says though the Fund is not enough to meet climate information needs of Africa, he hopes it will “be demonstrative enough that others can also benefit and learn from such experiences”.

African Development Bank Logo

African Development Bank Logo

Climate change makes Africa’s poor, especially smallholder farmers, increasingly vulnerable – with about 37 percent of the continent at risk desertification.

There is therefore the need to stimulate growth through the translation of climate information into practical action.

The AfDB has committed to support countries adapt to the negative effects of climate change, ensure food security and support good land, water and forestry management good practices.

Climate information services enable better integration of the water, energy and land nexus, which are critical along the entire agricultural commodity value chain, says Dr. Fatima Denton, Coordinator of the Africa Climate Policy Center (ACPC).

“Our deepest conviction is that climate change remains a double edge sword,” she said. “It constitutes the greatest challenge of our times, but it is also Africa’s greatest opportunity to widen out ripples of prosperity across our continent.”

The Climate for Development in Africa (ClimDev-Africa) programme is entrusted with a mandate to improve climate information services in support of African development agenda. It is jointly implemented by the African Union Commission (AUC), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Development Bank (AFDB).

Consolidating the potential for agriculture, using climate information services, will have a multiplier effect in catering for our youth, shared prosperity, and providing food, water and energy security, observed Dr. Denton.

October 11, 2014

CCDA-IV: Africa Petitioned to Reduce Burden on Ecosystems

Aaron Yancho Kaah
October 11, 2014

Harnessing renewable energy resources and efficient water management schemes can reduce the burden on ecosystems in Africa. This is according to the new report by Intercontinental Panel on Climate Change-IPCC.

The report was delivered by Dr Rajendra Pachauri , the head of IPCC at the fourth edition of the Climate Change and Development Conference (CCDA-IV) in Marrakesh, Morocco.

It highlighted that Africa was particularly Vulnerable to climate change because of poverty and ignorance.

The fourth edition of the Climate Change and Development Conference (CCDA-IV) convened in Marrakesh, Morocco

The fourth edition of the Climate Change and Development Conference (CCDA-IV) convened in Marrakesh, Morocco

It went further to pinpoint that tussle over natural resources like water and land aggravates poverty and the gender inequality levels leaving women more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The report suggests that systematic management of water resources and improved Agricultural techniques could bail the continent from these presents’ stalemates.

It calls for prompt action for harnessing renewable energy resources not only to promote growth and development on the continent but also to subdue the stress on the ecosystems.

“Projects like reducing illegal logging and deforestation for fuel wood and as well as the shunning of bush fires could provide immediate solutions to farmers in the rural areas of the continent,” the report notes.

Painting a bigger picture on the adaptation strategist, the report calls on governments and civil society organizations working with communities to enable them prepare for, cope with and adapt to future hazards by building stronger livelihoods, disaster risk management and increasing food self-sufficiency project s.

Agriculture provides the bases for the livelihoods of most developing countries’ economies, as 2.5 billion people make their living from agricultural production. 1.5 billion of these people are small-scale farmers. Improving the livelihoods of small scale producers has the potential to make a huge impact on poverty reduction

Africa resilience to climate change over time has been recorded through the production of droughts resisted seeds and an improvement in farming technologist and skills.

September 29, 2014

South Africa Faces Water Crisis

WaterSan Perspective
September 29, 2014

South Africa is facing a water crisis and the government’s current plans to address it are not sufficient.

This is according to the latest paper of the African Futures project released at a seminar in Pretoria, South Africa in September 2014.

The paper Parched Prospects: The Emerging Water Crisis in South Africa by ISS consultant Steve Hedden and ISS Executive Director Dr Jakkie Cilliers, argues that South Africa is already over-exploiting its freshwater resources on a national level and that water demand is growing faster than reliable supply.

“This means that over-exploitation will only increase in the future” said Cilliers at the seminar.

Water supply and management remains a problem in several developing countries

Water supply and management remains a problem in several developing countries

The African Futures project at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) is a partnership between the ISS and the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures at the University of Denver. The International Futures (IFs) forecasting software from the Pardee Center is used to model and provide a forecast for water supply and demand out to 2035 for the agriculture, industrial and municipal sectors.

“Our forecasts show that the current worrying gap between supply and demand will increase throughout the time horizon, even with the policy interventions currently proposed in the latest National Water Resource Strategy”, says Cilliers. The strategy was released by the Department of Water Affairs in 2013.

The analysis shows that over-exploitation of water resources will be a constraint on the implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP), limit growth, and leave South Africa vulnerable to shocks in the water system like droughts.

Four pillars of action are needed to ensure a water secure future for South Africa according to Dhesigen Naidoo, Chief Executive Officer of the Water Research Commission who also spoke at the seminar.

“These pillars are a strong science, technology and innovation knowledge base to provide sustainable solutions; good water infrastructure; excellent human capital to manage our water systems, and a massive correction in our wasteful water behaviors – both at personal and corporate levels”.

The authors of the African Futures paper argue for aggressive interventions, especially in demand management. Only in this way will South Africa be able to reconcile water demand with reliable supply.

Cilliers presented the “Closing the Gap” scenario that outlines the increases in supply and decreases in demand that will be required to achieve this goal.

September 19, 2014

Zimbabwe: African Governments Told To Prioritize WASH

Wallace Mawire
September 19, 2014

Participants at the sixth meeting for Water, Climate Development Programme (WACDEP) technical coordination programme for African countries have heard that African governments must prioritize Water, Sanitation and Hygiene issues as a prerequisite for sustainable development.

Speaking during this workshop in Harare, Zimbabwe, Laila Oualkacha, a representative to the Africa Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW), noted that putting water and sanitation on top of their development agenda, African governments would be in a better position to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

Bai Mass Taal, the Executive Secretary of African Ministers’ Council on Water

Bai Mass Taal, the Executive Secretary of African Ministers’ Council on Water

The meeting aimed at supporting integration of water security and climate resilience into development planning and decision making processes. It has been going on since Monday and will end today Friday.

Engineer Munashe Mvura, Chief Executive Officer of the of the Upper Manyame Sub-Cathment Council (UMSCC) for the GWP Zimbabwe Country Water Partnership Coordinator says the workshop was organized to facilitate the implementation of the WACDEP activities related to project preparation in eight countries of Cameroon, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Rwanda and Tunisia including four transboundary river basins of Volta Basin, Lake Chad, Lake Victoria-Kagera, Limpopo Basin and one shared aquifer the North Western Sahara Aquifer system.

“The overall objective was to support integration of water security and climate resilience in development planning and decision making processes through enhanced technical and institutional capacity and predictable financing and investments in water security and climate change adaptation,” Engineer Mvura told our reporter.

GWP organized the meeting in collaboration with the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (ICA) water platform and African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW).

September 12, 2014

Malawi: Water User Associations (WUAs) Bear Fruits

George Mhango
September 12, 2014

The Government of Malawi says the recently introduced Water User Associations (WUAs) in rural areas and market centres is bearing fruits.

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB) Malawi office, previously, rural piped water supply schemes were managed by voluntary organizations, called Scheme Management Committees to strengthen the sustainability of piped rural water supply schemes.
However, many of these schemes were not functioning properly, and as a result over 45% of the taps were not operational.

One of the water Kiosks in Ndirande Malawi where communal ownership is a problem

One of the water Kiosks in Ndirande Malawi where communal ownership is a problem

The WUAs are legal entities, which operate as “small water boards” at community level. They are, responsible for overseeing operation and maintenance of the rural piped schemes. As legal entities, WUAs aim to provide improved levels of service to their members through a Board of Trustees (BOT).

“In order to ensure efficiency in service delivery, WUAs will employee utility operators to manage the schemes, including collecting funds from consumer charges,” says the office as said in their newly introduced e-newsletter.

The office says funds collected are used for the operation, maintenance and expansion of the water supply schemes, thereby improving levels of service and sustaining the water supply infrastructure in line with measures to promote Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in rural areas.

“In order to facilitate the establishment of the WUAs, Malawi’s government developed guidelines to assist Implementing Entities and other service providers in establishing the Associations. WUA Training Manuals were also produced to assist different users to develop the competencies required to manage the water and sanitation systems efficiently and effectively. This is aimed at cost recovery and is done on a ‘willingness and ability to pay’ basis,” it says.

Water reforms have produced significant impacts on development, including improvements to drinking water access

Water reforms have produced significant impacts on development, including improvements to drinking water access

Tariff Guidelines have also been developed to assist WUAs and other stakeholders to set and implement realistic tariffs for rural water supply schemes. For the authorities in Malawi, this will improve their financial resource bases and ensure the sustainability of the systems.

Since the WUA management model is transitioning from a voluntary organization to a commercial entity, there are several challenges that need to be tackled with time. However, with the first WUAs established and registered to date, the experience has been encouraging. An initial assessment has shown that some of the WUAs have achieved financial break-even between expenses and income from fees.

Some have also started expanding their systems and installing more household connections.

According to the AfDB in Malawi, the success of this management model would alleviate the burden of supporting the piped schemes from the government and render the schemes more sustainable and productive. Nevertheless during the initial stages, as the WUAs are being established and the concept rolled out, the Associations need to be provided with limited operating expenses.

September 12, 2014

AfDB Launches E-Newsletter to Champion Water Issues

George Mhango
September 12, 2014

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has launched the inaugural RWSSI e-newsletter, which gives an overview of its recent activities in the rural water supply and sanitation sector under the bank’s Water and Sanitation Department (OWAS).

In the e-newsletter, OWAS has defined three strategic pillars, aligned with the bank’s vision for the next decade such as developing sustainable infrastructure and services for water security; promoting sector governance and knowledge management and; enhancing water sector collaboration and co-ordination to achieve integrated water resources management.

Most African countries struggle to provide access to water and sanitation to their people

Most African countries struggle to provide access to water and sanitation to their people

According to the bank’s statement, such focus areas apply to both the urban and rural water and sanitation sector, which the bank management says are in line with Ten Year Strategy (TYS 2013-2022).

The strategy stipulates that in order ‘to drive sustainable growth, Africa must develop and manage its vast natural resources sustainably, with water central to agriculture, energy, health, industry and mining’.

The statement says the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI) is an Africa-wide initiative, managed by the African Development Bank in close collaboration with the African Ministers’ Council on Water, civil society and governments.

The RWSSI is a regional framework for mobilizing partners, knowledge and investments needed to meet development goals in Africa’s rural areas.

Some of the issues in the e-newsletter include that water projects are funded through contributions from the bank, bilateral and multilateral agencies, African governments, communities and the RWSSI Trust Fund.

African Development Bank Logo

African Development Bank Logo

On the other hand the statement says the initiative supports rural water and sanitation projects and programmes with funding, advocacy and knowledge building so as to provide full and equitable access to safe, adequate and affordable water supply and sanitation in rural Africa by 2025.

According to the statement, the e-newsletter is aimed at giving an overview of the bank’s recent activities in the rural water supply and sanitation sector.

The newsletter is also available via the Bank’s web-site at: http://www.afdb.org/en/topics-and-sectors/initiatives-partnerships/rural-water-supply-sanitation-initiative/

September 6, 2014

2014 World Water Week: Participants Call For Intimate Integration of Energy and Water in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

WaterSan Perspective
September 06, 2014

The 2014 World Water Week, focusing on energy and water has ended with participants jointly emphasizing the importance of a water goal, as well as intimate integration of energy and water in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The Week also concluded that water efficiency is one of the main tools in combating poverty and hunger.

A few obstacles overshadow all others in the fight to end poverty. One is the silo mentality. Sectors must break barriers between them and use synergies to their full potential. This message was underlined by Stockholm Statement on Water, released throughout the Week as a series of films and papers. Another is the gross inefficiencies in water use.

“To counter the challenge of booming water demand we must manage it in a far smarter way. It concerns our lives and our livelihoods. In five years I want us all in our daily lives to be as aware of water efficiency as we are of energy efficiency today,” Mr. Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of Stockholm International Water Institute, told the closing session.

Mr. Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of Stockholm International Water Institute

Mr. Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of Stockholm International Water Institute

World Water Week started with a call from some of the world’s leading water, environment and resilience scientists and experts, who said that better management of rain, is the only way hunger and poverty can be eradicated.

Without improved rainwater management, the future development goals currently being discussed are unrealistic, said the scientists, who include Professor Malin Falkenmark of Stockholm International Water Institute/Stockholm Resilience Centre and ProfessorJohan Rockström of Stockholm Resilience Centre.

During the Week, which broke all earlier attendance records with over 3,000 participants from more than 140 countries, water efficiency and ways to achieve it was highlighted in several sessions and discussions.

Mr. Neil Macleod of eThekwini Water and Sanitation in South Africa, spoke of the necessity to invent a toilet that does not need water. “The flushing toilet belongs in the history books, in the museums,” said Mr. Macleod, stating that a non-flush toilet would cut a household’s water use by 30 per cent and allow us to extract both fuel and fertiliser that today literally is flushed down the drain.

Rozemarijn ter Horst founder of the Water Youth Movement speaking during the 2014 World Water Week in Stockholm

Rozemarijn ter Horst founder of the Water Youth Movement speaking during the 2014 World Water Week in Stockholm

The head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Ms. Maria van der Hoeven, spoke of the need to grow biofuels in areas that rely on rain rather than irrigation, something that would also lessen dependency on power to draw water.

“We must go from ideas to action, from goals to implementation. If we assume there will be a Sustainable Development Goal on water, we must now look at how it can be integrated with other goals and at concrete measures for implementation,” said Mr. Torgny Holmgren.

To feed into the soon-to-start UN member state negotiations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, SIWI released the Stockholm Statement on Water, made up of five thematic arguments why water must not be forgotten when debating and negotiating the Sustainable Development Goals for future resilient societies; water for health, water for sustainable growth, water for agriculture, water for energy and water for climate.

“Nothing is set until the final decision in 2015. We need to keep up the pressure,” said Ms. Karin Lexén, SIWI Director of World Water Week, Prizes and International Processes.

Participants during the 2014 World Water Week in Stockholm

Participants during the 2014 World Water Week in Stockholm

The need for holistically approaching energy and water issues was reiterated by the IEA’s Ms. van der Hoeven, who said that “The water-energy nexus if firmly on the agenda of IEA. And so is development. We know that 1.2 billion people in the world lack electricity, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. We therefore applaud next year’s World Water Week theme, water and development.”

Ms. Amina Mohammed, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning, concluded that “Next year is a momentous year, it is a year of transformation. We are moving from a poverty agenda to a sustainable development agenda. That is no mean feat. We need leadership that is courageous, and I hope we can use the energy from this Week as a baton for the work we have ahead of us.”

September 6, 2014

South African Prof. Receives the 2014 Stockholm Water Prize

WaterSan Perspective and SIWI
September 06, 2014

Professor John Briscoe of South Africa has received the 2014 Stockholm Water Prize for his unparalleled contributions to global and local water management, inspired by an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of people on the ground.

H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden presented the prize to Prof. Briscoe at a Royal Award Ceremony during World Water Week in Stockholm.

L-R, Professor John Briscoe receiving the award from H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden

L-R, Professor John Briscoe receiving the award from H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden

In its citation, the Stockholm Water Prize Committee stated that Professor John Briscoe “has combined world-class research with policy implementation and practice to improve the development and management of water resources as well as access to safe drinking water and sanitation.”

On receiving the award, Professor Briscoe said he was “deeply honoured”, and that “one of my blessings is having had such great mentors.”

Today’s world is beset by daunting water challenges – human water security and biodiversity are at risk, global demand for water is soaring, and droughts and floods cause deadly disasters. These challenges cannot be met on one front alone. Professor Briscoe’s genius lies in his fusion of science, policy and practice, giving him unrivaled insights into how water should be managed to improve the lives of people worldwide.

Prof. Briscoe said: “I would like to emphasize the role of thinking practitioners, a group I am proud to be part of. It is not an academic job, nor is it a nine-to-five-fixing-bolts job. They are engaged in action, in a cycle of challenges and responses. I would like to quote Mike Tyson, who has said that ‘Everyone has a plan until you get smacked in the face’. It is about the ability to adjust to new circumstances.”

In the mid-1970s Briscoe lived in a small village in the interior of Bangladesh, and learned first-hand how infrastructure for protection from floods and droughts could transform the lives of the poor. Later in the 1970s Briscoe worked as an engineer in the government of newly independent Mozambique, learning that you were a credible policy maker only if you could help resolve basic problems of building and running infrastructure.

“At the end of the day, it is what happens on the ground that matters. All policies must be judged by whether they make a difference on the ground. I believe that the years I spent working at the micro level is what enables me to be an effective policy maker,” said Briscoe.

First presented in 1991, Stockholm Water Prize is the world’s most prominent award for outstanding achievements in water-related activities.

First presented in 1991, Stockholm Water Prize is the world’s most prominent award for outstanding achievements in water-related activities.

At the other end of Professor Briscoe’sspectrum of accomplishments is the 2003 Water Strategy for the World Bank. This strategy provided a new, creative and enduring benchmark for global understanding of the need for both better infrastructure and improved institutions. The strategy has had implications far beyond the water sector, helping to ensure that developing and emerging countries get a stronger voice in global governance.

Professor Briscoe brought his experience of high-level policy with him to Brazil as the World Bank Country Director in 2005. Brazil was one of the biggest of the World Bank’s borrowers, and John Briscoe was praised for bridging the divide between sound environmental management and economic development objectives in the Amazon and other parts of this rapidly developing nation.

Professor Briscoe has become known for his passionate commitment to sustainable economic development, his disrespect for constructed boundaries between sectors and people, and for his insistence that the voice of people who are affected be heard.

“It is vital to give primary attention to the effect on people who will live with the consequences of policies and projects. Equally important is the voice of political leaders who have to take account of all of their people and who have to make difficult choices among competing priorities.”


About John Briscoe
Professor John Briscoe did his undergraduate studies in civil engineering at the University of Cape Town and his Ph.D. in environmental engineering at Harvard University. He has worked in dozens of countries around the world, and lived in his native South Africa, the United States, Bangladesh, Mozambique, India and Brazil. Professor Briscoe’sscientific expertise encompasses engineering, nutrition, epidemiology, demography, anthropology, political science and economics.

Professor Briscoe is known for his courage and pragmatism in tackling controversial issues, ranging from conflicts on international waters to novel approaches to integrating infrastructure, institutions and environmental sustainability in river basins.

As a professor in the schools of Engineering and Applied Science, Public Health and Government at Harvard University, his focus is on educating “the next generation of specialised integrators” – people who are deeply schooled in a discipline but also know how to work across disciplines. John Briscoe was born in Brakpan in South Africa. He is 66 years old, and a citizen of South Africa and Ireland.

About Stockholm Water Prize

The Stockholm Water Prize is a global award founded in 1991 and presented annually by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) to an individual, organisation or institution for outstanding water-related achievements. The Stockholm Water Prize Laureate receives USD 150,000 and a crystal sculpture specially designed and created by Orrefors. H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden is patron of the prize.

Initially founded by the Stockholm Water Foundation to encourage research and development of the world’s water environment, the Stockholm Water Prize is additionally supported by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, International Water Association, Water Environment Federation and the City of Stockholm. The Founders of the Stockholm Water Prize are companies united in their strong conviction to push sustainability in the water sector. They are: Bacardi, Borealis & Borouge, DuPont, ERV, Fujitsu, Grundfos, HP, Kemira, KPMG Sweden, Ragn-Sells, Scandic, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), SJ (Swedish Railways), Snecma/Safran, Xylem and Ålandsbanken.


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