Groundwater Risks and Institutional Responses for Poverty Reduction in Rural Africa

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Geography - SoGE

Abstract

Improved understanding of groundwater risks and institutional responses against competing growth and development goals is central to accelerating and sustaining Africa's development. Irrigated agriculture, mining and tourism all provide pathways out of poverty but create unprecedented demands on complex and poorly understood groundwater systems. Kwale County on the south eastern coast of Kenya characterises the prospects and limits for new and competing groundwater use with Kenya's largest mine beginning production in 2014. The mineral sands mine has a peak groundwater abstraction of 5,400 m3 per day from a spatially-distribution borefield site to act as a buffer to surface water storage deficits in drought events. Conjunctive surface and groundwater resources are critical to ensure a revenue stream of USD250 million per year over 13 years of the mine's operation, which will elevate minerals to be the Kenya's fourth largest foreign exchange generator. The Kwale coastal aquifer system also irrigates 5,000 hectares of sugarcane managed by Kwale International Sugarcane Company (KISCOL). Other groundwater users include a thriving tourism industry, a small municipality and thousands of handpump water users. Thus, Kwale captures the complex reality of Africa's groundwater science and policy challenges at a unique historical moment prior to a generation of social, environmental and economic change. The aim of the project is to characterise biophysical and socio-economic dimensions of groundwater risk to inform improved institutional responses to promote growth and poverty reduction in Kenya.

Planned Impact

Who are the intended beneficiaries?
Government of Kenya Ministry of Water and Irrigation
Government of Kenya Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA)
Residents of Kwale County (new constitutional authority since March 2013)
Community Handpump Users, mainly low-income and vulnerable groups (the 'poor')
Kenya academic organisations, universities and research institutes
Kenya's strategic regional hub of UN organisations, such as UN Environment Programme, UN Development Programme and UNICEF (specifically work on rural water supply)
Ministry of Mines and mining sector
Kenya Sugar Board (KSB) representing the sugarcane industry
Regional and international academic, research and donor organisations and individuals, including World Bank, African Development Bank, bilaterals (DFID, SIDA, DGIS, etc)

Who will use UpGro's research and new knowledge?
In the short term we would identify:
Government of Kenya Ministry of Water and Irrigation
Government of Kenya Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA)
Kenya academic organisations, universities and research institutes
Regional and international academic, research and donor organisations and individuals, including World Bank, African Development Bank, bilaterals (DFID, SIDA, DGIS, etc)

In the longer term and with further research beyond the one year period we would add:
Residents of Kwale County (new constitutional authority since March 2013)
Community Handpump Users, mainly low-income and vulnerable groups (the 'poor')
Kenya's strategic regional hub of UN organisations, such as UN Environment Programme, UN Development Programme and UNICEF (specifically work on rural water supply)
Ministry of Mines and mining sector
Kenya Sugar Board (KSB) representing the sugarcane industry

How will UpGro's new knowledge be used (and accessed)?
We envisage that the major user will be the Government of Kenya's national Water Resource Management Authority (WRMA). WRMA is the lead agency in charge of water resource management in Kenya. In order to support the Vision 2030 national development goals for economic and social development and to reduce poverty, WRMA allocates the available water resources based on criteria and priorities set out in the Water Act 2002 and the Water Resource Management Rules (2007). In order to build stakeholder participation in water resource management, WRMA has facilitated the formation of water resource users associations (WRUAs) for collaborative management of the resources and to minimise conflicts. WRMA thus mediates and regulates the increasingly complex relationships between industry (here, mining), agriculture (here sugarcane), tourism and domestic water supply (urban and rural) we focus on in the project. While the Kwale study site is not 'unique' it reflects the challenges WRMA increasingly faces to effectively balance growth and development policy goals with variable and uncertain surface and groundwater resources. In the Impact Pathways statement we elaborate on how the 'new knowledge' may feed into the increased groundwater opportunities and challenges related to mining and sugarcane in Kenya.

In terms of how the new knowledge will be accessed we identify in the wider statement:
Online - via bespoke project page with open access material
Conference(s)
Embedding within the ESRC project in the same study site, particularly for low income and vulnerable handpump users
Journal paper
Media - such as tv, radio and newspapers (print, online)

Publications


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Colchester F (2017) Accidental infrastructure for groundwater monitoring in Africa in Environmental Modelling & Software
Colchester, F. (2014) Smart handpumps: a preliminary data analysis in Appropriate Healthcare Technologies for Low Resource Settings (AHT 2014)
 
Description Introduction
Effective groundwater governance is essential if we are to balance competing interests and interactions between economic growth, environmental sustainability and human development in both industrial and emerging economies. Applying a socio-ecological systems framework this study analyses the case of a strategic aquifer in Kwale County in Kenya. Groundwater use for new developments in mining and irrigated agriculture present new risks as their need are balanced with those of the communities who rely on groundwater for their drinking water supplies.
Community and Industrial Abstractors
Economic actors with large-scale groundwater abstraction permits may influence groundwater flow regimes with uncertain implications for the resilience of the resource system and communities which are vulnerable to changes in aquifer levels and quality. The study showed that the combined abstraction of the new mining and sugar cane operations in the area is an order of magnitude higher than community abstraction using handpumps. This change in the abstraction regime poses risks to the quality and quantity of water available to communities. Monitoring against baseline conditions permits future changes or stress to be detected, notably salinity in the coastal margin, anthropogenic pollution, and water level fluctuations.
Integrating data streams provided by natural and socio-economic systems is necessary to understand, predict and respond to changes in the groundwater system. Government environmental monitoring has limited climate and surface water instrumentation but can be strengthened by standard reporting required of licenced groundwater abstractors. Even if all relevant environmental data were collated these would only present the 'natural system' and changes attributable to natural variability or commercial activities. Impacts to social systems would be less clear particularly in relation to changes in groundwater use and human health. This presents a major policy challenge which is increasingly shared by corporate water users as the 'social licence to operate' carries local responsibilities and financial and reputational penalties if commercial activities cause harm to environmental or social systems specified in commercial loan agreements.
Groundwater Governance
A perfect alignment of data monitoring and integration does not resolve the constraint of institutional boundaries and interests. Aquifers rarely map neatly on to commercial or political boundaries. Institutional interests may be inclusive and obligatory, such as the County Government's constitutional requirements. In addition, those with obligations and responsibilities may not be those best placed to fulfil them. They may have the mandate but not the ability. Results from the household survey indicate the Water Resource Management Authority, the body with responsibility for water resources, has achieved almost no awareness amongst local people (0.1%), who tend to identify local institutions more generally (18%).
Designing an accountable and sustainable governance regime that clearly defines roles and responsibilities across a complex socio-ecological landscape is a non-trivial challenge. Ensuring that this regime can make fair decisions for the public good and effectively enforce these decisions is far from straight-forward.

How might the findings be taken forward and by whom?
This UPGro Catalyst Grant has continued as a NERC/ESRC/DFID UPGro Consortium Grant "Groundwater for Growth and Development", where the project team will continue to work with the local actors and stakeholders. Specifically, the project aim is to design, test and transfer a novel, interdisciplinary Groundwater Risk Management Tool. This will be a decision support tool that will combine objective information across the natural and social sciences to create risk metrics that will aid decision making.
The government stakeholders, specifically County Government and WRMA, see the benefit in this as they operationalize their new devolved responsibilities, and are thus fully engaged in the project. The commercial actors, specifically Base Titanium Ltd. also understand that the long-term sustainability of their operations requires understanding of the water resources and their potential impacts on local communities and the environment, and are thus similarly engaged in the project. Their 'social licence to operate' carries local responsibilities and financial and reputational penalties if commercial activities cause harm to environmental or social systems.
In the longer term the findings of this project and the tool being developed in the Consortium Grant will be of benefit to other County Governments in Kenya as well as other government and corporate actors working to balance growth and development in areas of limited groundwater resources.
Exploitation Route With the award of one of five consortium projects, the work is continuing under the Gro for Good project (2015-19). This includes partnership with the County Government, national water resources management authority (WRMA) and private sector stakeholders. The latter includes an international mining company with interest expressed by the International Congress for Mining and Minerals (ICMM) in the work given the same issues of groundwater risks pose significant risks around the world with few viable approaches.
Sectors Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
URL http://www.smithschool.ox.ac.uk/research-programmes/water-programme/
 
Description The catalyst grant has provided an excellent platform and data to build strong partnerships with county government and private sector stakeholders. The concept of a groundwater risk management tool has resonated with all stakeholders and led to a productive science-practitioner partnership building trust and promoting dialogue to advance the design and delivery of the tool.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services