Connecting communities for sustainable water management
Located near North Darfur’s capital city El Fasher, the Wadi El Ku (Wadi meaning valley) is an area that has seen a substantial population growth over the past 10 years. The current population, which is estimated to be well over 700,000 people, depends on the valley’s water supply mainly to support livelihoods that include farming and livestock raising. The overuse of water resources has led to dropping groundwater levels and increased environmental degradation, which in turn has affected livelihoods and undermines economic recovery.
“The environmental situation in the area is deteriorating and worsening, especially in the upper area of the Wadi where the agriculture is suffering from the loss of vegetation cover, unlawful cutting down of trees, sand encroachment into the artificial land as well as drifts”, explains Mohammed Bashar Abd al-Rhman, representative of the networks and communities in Wadi El Ku area. “This deteriorating environmental situation has its effects on the communities. For example, drifts reduce arable lands and thus affect people’s livelihoods negatively. We also find that the lack of vegetation affects the areas available for grazing and consequently leads to conflicts over land and other natural resources”, he adds.
With such environmental and economic challenges facing the community, it was time for a community-owned and -born collaborative forum to be set up and to collectively face the growing environmental problems facing the community. Such a gathering had never existed in the valley.
With assistance from the UN to bring all stakeholders together, in December 2015, the Wadi El Ku Catchment Management Forum was established with a mission to coordinate, advocate and advise on key water resources issues in the Wadi El Ku catchment.
The community’s reasons to set up the forum are thus described by Mohammed Bashar Abd al-Rhman: “There are many incentives, for example the forum is a body that helps institutions and communities dependent on natural resources to communicate and collaborate more. Moreover, the forum brings communities closer to decision-making centres.”
Made up of 48 primary and alternate members, the forum is composed of representatives from government technical institutions at the Darfur state level, members from the legislative council, farmers as well as pastoralists. The forum also includes members of the local media outlets and community-based organizations that advocate for sustainable resource management. In addition to those members, native administration personnel, landowners and community representatives from within the area are also active members of the forum.
“There has been a very high and successful rate of attendance by forum members. Discussions always seem to be carried out in a democratic and transparent manner”, says Mohammed Bashar Abd al-Rhman.
So far, the catchment management forum is seen as a novel platform that brings together users and custodians in the water sector from across Government and communities in Wadi El Ku. Some future ambitions of the forum include establishing a unified front on how key water issues should be handled, and then jointly advocating for and bringing about change in the way local residents use their water supply from the valley.
Members of the forum has thus far met four times. According to Mohammed Bashar Abd al-Rhman “the key impact of the Wadi El Ku forum, which is already gaining significant attention from locals include: coordination to bring about changes that improve the use of water resources; advocacy to change the concepts around water use; advocacy to develop regulations governing the just use of water; provision of advice to users, technicians and politicians on the issue of optimal use of water and resources.”