Integrated Solutions to the Sustainable Development of Lake Victoria Basin
Introducing integrated watershed management for poverty alleviation and environmental conservation in Lake Victoria Basin
Over the last four decades, while the local economies have been developing, Lake Victoria has faced a number of environmental problems, including pollution, biodiversity loss, habitat destruction and soil erosion. It is estimated that the lake’s indigenous fish species have been reduced by 80 per cent and that over 70 per cent of the forest cover in the catchment area has been lost. In addition, due to the poor water quality of the rivers flowing into the lake, amounts of silt and nutrients are increasing, which adds to the siltation problem of Lake Victoria. Environmental degradation forces locals back into extreme poverty and deep into the vicious circles of pollution and poverty. The project introduces the concept and strategy of integrated watershed management (IWM) of Poyang Lake Basin: “To manage the lake, the rivers must be harnessed; to harness the rivers, the mountains must be developed; to develop the mountains, poverty must be alleviated.”
Towards a Solution
Poyang Lake and Lake Victoria are the largest freshwater lakes in China and Africa, respectively. It can be observed that both lake basins are facing similar challenges in balancing economic development with environmental protection. More than 30 years ago, Jiangxi Provincial Government, based on the knowledge of IWM, developed the Mountain-River-Lake Program (MRLP), which consists of strategies and measures on watershed administrative management, sustainable alternative livelihoods, eco-agricultural technologies and micro-finance, etc. Today, the ecological environment and people’s living standards in the Poyang Lake Basin have been greatly improved. To introduce the strategies of IWM, the project aims to enhance the institutional capacities for the sustainable development of Lake Victoria Basin, with a special emphasis on exchanging appropriated IWM technologies.
With the platform of China South-South Cooperation Network (China SSC Network), two participating NGOs, Friends of Lake Victoria(OSIENALA) from Kenya and Civil Education is the Solution to Poverty and Environmental Management (CESOPE) from the United Republic of Tanzania, benefited from an experience sharing on the IWM practice of China. A feasibility study report for the best practices in the sustainable development of Lake Victoria Basin were jointly formulated. The capacities of the participating NGOs in the sustainable development of Lake Victoria Basin were further improved when a consultant mission of Chinese experts visited the two countries of the Lake Victoria Basin. Demonstration models, policy recommendations and international applications for the sustainable development of Lake Victoria Basin have been developed and proposed to the respective organizations with the assistance of Chinese IWM experts. The project is carried out according to the following steps:
- Formulating demand-driven planning. Based on the situations of the eco-environment and impoverishment in the Lake Victoria Basin of the United Republic of Tanzania and Kenya, the Promotion Association for Mountain-River-Lake Regional Sustainable Development (MRLSD) from China invited IWM experts to jointly develop two sub-projects -- one activity plan with CESOPE of United Republic of Tanzania, and one demonstration model with OSIENALA of Kenya.
- Supporting and guiding the participating NGOs in carrying out the sub-projects in their countries. CESOPE proposed the project ‘Fact Finding Mission on the ecological status of Lake Victoria’, whose main objectives include investigating the ecological situation and livelihood activities around Mara, Bukoba, Geita and Mwanza of Lake Victoria Basin, and determining the imminent challenges that the basin is facing in these regions. OSIENALA is implementing the Community-based strategy for the improvement of environment in the Lake Victoria basin project, which aims to develop a set of coordinated and sustainable activities that address the interconnection between human life and the Lake Victoria Basin ecosystem.
- Summarizing the project and formulating a model to replicate in other regions along the Lake Victoria Basin. The Chinese experts of IWM evaluated the two projects and helped the two NGOs, CESOPE and OSIENALA to formulate demonstrative models to be replicated in other areas of the Lake Victoria Basin.
The China SSC Network provided opportunities to promote knowledge and experience sharing on IWM between China and Africa. The significant achievements of the project are models based on the concept of IWM with the characteristics of operationality, suitability and replicability.
In addition to the Lake Victoria Basin area of the United Republic of Tanzania and Kenya, the sub-projects are designed in line with the situation of all the watershed areas of lake and river basins in Africa, such as in Uganda and Zambia; hence, the models can easily be introduced to other countries. CESOPE carried out extensive research and inspections, involving all stakeholders, such as governments, NGOs, enterprises and individuals, etc. OSIENALA mobilized all the stakeholders, especially local farmers and women, to build Village Conservation Teams (VCTs) and Beach Management Units (BMU), which consist of the Village Environmental Teams (mainly farmers and women) who are trained on sustainable livelihood techniques and ecological conservation by OSIENALA. As the beneficiaries of the project, they are willing to share their success with other villagers through the schemes Community-managed Conservation and Improved Livelihoods and Community Agro-Forestry of OSIENALA. Additionally, the techniques taught by OSIENALA prioritize the utilization of local resources and labour, for instance, household clay stoves, pit toilet and rainwater storage systems, etc. As a result, the models are highly popular with the villagers and drive the whole village to improve their livelihoods, environment, hygiene and women’ rights, among others.
With the support of China SSC Network, both CESOPE and OSIENALA are dedicated to raising awareness on other technologies and environmental protection through radio broadcasts. They also developed project applications and policy suggestions, and sought more resources to implement IWM.
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