Enhancing capacity for improved water cooperation between Zimbabwe and Mozambique

The Buzi-Pungwe-Save basins

Mozambique delta © Shutterstock/Toby Grayson

Mozambique delta © Shutterstock/Toby Grayson

The Buzi-Pungwe-Save, basins crossing borders between Mozambique and Zimbabwe

The Buzi-Pungwe-Save (BUPUSA) basins are shared between Mozambique and Zimbabwe. With over 1 million people, its waters are crucial for the well-being and stability of this region in Southern Africa.

The basin covers a total area of 162,051 km² , roughly the size of Tunisia. Map of the BUPUSA basin ©BRL Ingénierie

The basin covers a total area of 162,051 km² , roughly the size of Tunisia. Map of the BUPUSA basin ©BRL Ingénierie

The Buzi, Pungwe and Save rivers originate in Zimbabwe and drain into the Indian Ocean in Mozambique. The two countries share similar challenges, including frequent extreme weather such as floods and droughts, water quality degradation due to gold panning and increasing siltation due to unsustainable land management practices (for example riverbank farming).

The IUCN Building River Governance and Dialogue (BRIDGE) programme has been working in BUPUSA since 2014. Its main partners are government institutions and WaterNet, a regional network of university and training institutes specialising in water.

Joint Mozambique and Zimbabwe BRIDGE-4 Inception workshop, Manica, Mozambique ©IUCN/Tariro Davison

Joint Mozambique and Zimbabwe BRIDGE-4 Inception workshop, Manica, Mozambique ©IUCN/Tariro Davison

The objectives of the BRIDGE programme in BUPUSA are:

  • Supporting the implementation of the region’s water cooperation frameworks, namely the Water Policy and Protocol on Shared Watercourses by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), aimed at improving water cooperation, peace and investment in the region;
  • Enhancing transboundary water cooperation into actions on the ground through capacity-building and knowledge sharing;
  • Promoting tools for effective transboundary water governance and ecosystem valuation.

BRIDGE is active in fourteen transboundary basins across the world, with the majority located in Africa ©IUCN Water

BRIDGE is active in fourteen transboundary basins across the world, with the majority located in Africa ©IUCN Water

Effective transboundary cooperation requires the sharing of knowledge and skills in water resource management among BUPUSA riparian states, which is also a key objective of Waternet in the Southern African Development Community” ~ Professor Dominic Mazvimavi

BRIDGE 4 Stakeholder Dialogue, Dec 2019, Manica, Mozambique ©IUCN/Tariro Davison

BRIDGE 4 Stakeholder Dialogue, Dec 2019, Manica, Mozambique ©IUCN/Tariro Davison

BUPUSA and River Basin Organisations in Southern Africa: Yesterday and Today

In the Southern Africa region, over fifteen agreements related to transboundary watercourses are in place. The SADC Treaty and the Protocol on Shared Watercourses systems provide the enabling environment for the creation and operation of RBOs (River Basin Organisations). The oldest is the Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) established in 1994 overseeing the management of the Okavango river basin covering Angola, Botswana and Namibia. The OrangeSenqu Commission (ORASECOM) was established in 2000 for the management of the Orange river. The Limpopo Watercourse Commission (LIMCOM) was set up in 2003 to coordinate activities on the Limpopo Basin, and the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM) saw the day in July 2004. There are also other bilateral organizations such as the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) and the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA).

OKACOM had its beginnings in Namibia, nurtured by successful agreements for sub-basins in the region. Read more: OKACOM Website.

OKACOM had its beginnings in Namibia, nurtured by successful agreements for sub-basins in the region. Read more: OKACOM Website.

In 2016, Mozambique and Zimbabwe signed the Pungwe Basin Water Sharing Agreement to institutionalize transboundary water management in the Pungwe Basin. In 2019 the two countries signed another agreement to enhance water cooperation in the Buzi basin (GWP Southern Africa). A draft agreement on the third river of the shared basin, ie the Save, is currently being finalised.

These three agreements are set to support the establishment and foundation of a new River Basin Organisation for the Buzi-Pungwe-Save.

Mozambique and Zimbabwe sign an agreement to enhance water cooperation in the Buzi basin, July 2019, Zimbabwe ©Smart Water Magazine

Mozambique and Zimbabwe sign an agreement to enhance water cooperation in the Buzi basin, July 2019, Zimbabwe ©Smart Water Magazine

Challenges facing the region

Of the 15 transboundary river basins in the Southern Africa region, 9 are shared with Mozambique. In all but the Ruvuma basin, Mozambique is the downstream State. As rainfall and runoff have an unbalanced distribution, and floods and droughts are a recurrent phenomena due to climate change, the country strongly encourages water cooperation with its neighbours.

The Chicamba dam, one of the major dams in the Buzi River Basin is a hydropower dam (2,020 Mm3, 15MW) on the Revue River in Mozambique ©BRLi

The Chicamba dam, one of the major dams in the Buzi River Basin is a hydropower dam (2,020 Mm3, 15MW) on the Revue River in Mozambique ©BRLi

Zimbabwe is mostly semi-arid with a high rainfall variability. As a result, the country relies heavily on storage for water provision. With more than 8000 dams, water is stored in reservoirs of which 82% is used by the agricultural sector. Domestic and industrial use take 15%, while mining is responsible for 3% of water withdrawals. Zimbabwe is therefore also heavily invested in the careful allocation of its water resources.

Tariro Davison Saruchera is the IUCN Water Coordinator for East and Southern Africa and manages the BRIDGE programme in the BUPUSA, Lake Malawi/Niassa/Nyasa, and Ruvuma Basins ©IUCN

Tariro Davison Saruchera is the IUCN Water Coordinator for East and Southern Africa and manages the BRIDGE programme in the BUPUSA, Lake Malawi/Niassa/Nyasa, and Ruvuma Basins ©IUCN

"Early on in the BUPUSA basin, IUCN BRIDGE created a space for dialogue between the riparian countries Zimbabwe and Mozambique. This platform for exchange and negotiation was a key building block for the establishment of formal agreements."
Tariro Davison Saruchera, IUCN Water Coordinator East and Southern Africa

Many major river basins cross the Southern Africa region, including the Limpopo, Orange, Okavango and Zambezi, all transboundary and highly regulated for water supply and hydropower generation @Shutterstock/Africa924

Many major river basins cross the Southern Africa region, including the Limpopo, Orange, Okavango and Zambezi, all transboundary and highly regulated for water supply and hydropower generation @Shutterstock/Africa924

Training and Cooperation on Environmental Flows in the BUPUSA

The term 'Environmental flows' refers to water that is left in a river system, or released into it, for the specific purpose of managing the health and functioning of that freshwater ecosystem. The EU defined environmental flows as: the "amount of water required for the aquatic ecosystem to continue to thrive and provide the services we rely upon."

The Save River, near Birchenough bridge in Zimbabwe. The river suffers from heavy siltation ©IUCN/Melisa Mavhenge

The Save River, near Birchenough bridge in Zimbabwe. The river suffers from heavy siltation ©IUCN/Melisa Mavhenge

Despite the adoption of protocols, agreements and legislation, there is limited implementation of water allocation for Environmental Flows (E-Flows) in the BUPUSA due to a lack of capacity and required skills. In order to overcome this, Mozambique and Zimbabwe requested BRIDGE and Waternet to undertake a training programme on E-Flows.

Victor Lehmann demonstrates use of an acoustic doppler current profiler for river flow measurement on the Zambezi River, Zambia (November 2018). Such measurements are necessary as part of environmental flow assessment capacity building @IUCN Tariro Davison

Victor Lehmann demonstrates use of an acoustic doppler current profiler for river flow measurement on the Zambezi River, Zambia (November 2018). Such measurements are necessary as part of environmental flow assessment capacity building @IUCN Tariro Davison

Implementation of E-Flow assessments require a multidisciplinary approach, hence a wide spectrum of experts, including high level officials (directors and senior scientists from Mozambique’s Water Administration and Zimbabwe’s Water Authority) and technical members with different backgrounds (legal advisors, economists, engineers , biophysical and social scientists) - all responsible for basin planning, management and adaptation - were gathered from each country for participation in the training.

The study was carried out in the Upper Revue Basins at 6 sites in Mozambique and 5 sites in Zimbabwe. The teams were led by ARA-Centro in Mozambique and ZINWA Save Catchment Council in Zimbabwe, and also composed of officials from other relevant government ministries such as agriculture, wildlife management and universities ©IUCN

The study was carried out in the Upper Revue Basins at 6 sites in Mozambique and 5 sites in Zimbabwe. The teams were led by ARA-Centro in Mozambique and ZINWA Save Catchment Council in Zimbabwe, and also composed of officials from other relevant government ministries such as agriculture, wildlife management and universities ©IUCN

As a result of the training, the Mozambican and Zimbabwean participants identified key policy gaps which limited the inclusion of Environmental Flows in river basin management. Recommendations were made to correct this and include E-Flows in the water legislation of both countries. (BUPUSA E-Flows Case Study)

E-Flows training. Participants were drawn from agencies responsible for water resources management, environmental management, agriculture, forestry, national parks, economic planning, rural development, and universities from both Mozambique and Zimbabwe ©Melisa Matavire Mavhenge

E-Flows training. Participants were drawn from agencies responsible for water resources management, environmental management, agriculture, forestry, national parks, economic planning, rural development, and universities from both Mozambique and Zimbabwe ©Melisa Matavire Mavhenge

Following the training and pilot study in the BUPUSA basin, Mozambique and Zimbabwe embarked on a negotiation process guided by the lessons learnt during the training. The E-Flows capacity development programme not only enhanced knowledge and skills, but triggered transformative policies and institutional frameworks creating an enabling environment for BUPUSA's tri-basin agreements.

Read more: ScienceDirect, June 2020 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1462901119310214

"Families in the Southern Africa region are more vulnerable than ever. Disasters such as droughts, floods and epidemics affect the vulnerable the most, which are women and children. Interventions like BRIDGE provide a channel for communications that goes a long way in helping improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable communities"

Melisa Matavire Mavhenge, Water Project Officer, IUCN Pretoria, South Africa

Namapa, Mozambique @Shutterstock/Svetlana Arapova

Namapa, Mozambique @Shutterstock/Svetlana Arapova

FURTHER READING

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Produced by Claire Warmenbol, Tariro Davison, Melisa Matavire Mavhenge and Diego Jara with contributions from IUCN colleagues and partners. Published June 2020