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Unlocking resilient benefits from African water resources

Project: Research


Sustainable water resource development remains elusive because development has largely externalized costs to the environment and vulnerable people. There is a need for novel research theory, methodologies & practice in order to meet the UN SDGs and realise the Africa Water Vision 2025. We propose to launch an innovative research approach: the Adaptive Systemic Approach (ASA). Our aim is to apply transformative, transdisciplinary, community-engaged research, to shift water development outcomes towards achieving the SDGs. We focus on continental water development priorities: water supply and pollution.
This collaboration brings together the ARUA Water Centre of Excellence (CoE) and UK partner, the University of Sheffield (UoS). The 8 CoE nodes are: i) Addis Ababa U, Ethiopia; U Rwanda, Rwanda; U Cheikh Anta Diop, Senegal; Dar es Salaam U, Tanzania, Makerere U, Uganda (DAC least developed); ii) U Lagos, Nigeria (DAC lower-middle income); and iii) U Cape Town, Rhodes U (CoE Hub), South Africa (DAC upper-middle income).
We propose a country-based Case Study structure to support local research development and pathways to local impact (Figure 1 in Case for Support). We use an SDG6 (water and sanitation) centred model, that links SDGs related to landscape water resources with SDGs related to water services. (This model underpins the successful UKRI:GCRF Capability Grant:"Water for African SDGs"). We raise three research questions (RQ) related to water development priorities. Three catchment-based Case Studies address RQ1: HOW IS WATER USED, TO WHOSE BENEFIT? (Rufigi R Tanzania, Senegal R Senegal, and Blue Nile R Ethiopia). Two Case Studies focus on urban water pollution (Kampala City Uganda and Lagos City Nigeria), addressing RQ2: WHAT ARE THE SOURCES, PATHWAYS AND IMPACT OF POLLUTION IN URBAN WATER SYSTEMS? A cross-cutting Case Study addresses water resource protection and biodiversity in all CSs, and a biodiversity site in Rwanda.
By the completion of the project we commit to leaving local people effectively linked with institutions making decisions about water that affect them. Therefore all Case Studies address the question RQ3: HOW CAN LOCAL CAPACITY TO ENGAGE IN PARTICIPATORY GOVERNANCE BE DEVELOPED FOR: I) EQUITABLE WATER SHARING, II) COMMUNITY POLLUTION RESILIENCE, AND III) ECOSYSTEM PROTECTION AND RESTORATION?
The novel Adaptive Systemic Approach (ASA) provides a coherent methodological framework that will support Case Study comparisons, changed water development practice, and will embed pathways to impact throughout the project. The ASA requires engaged research, and draws on three core theoretical concepts, with associated methods: Complex Social-Ecological Systems, Transdisciplinarity, and Transformative Social Learning (Elaborated in Case for Support).

Lead Research Organisation: Institute for Water Research, Rhodes University, 

Effective start/end date1/04/2028/12/23