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Collaboration Is Focus of USAID Water Summit in Africa

Scientists, policymakers, information specialists and other stakeholders came together to share case studies on water systems worldwide and discuss how to best collect and disseminate information collected from several regions of the world to West African nations at the 13th Water Information Summit in the Burkina Faso capital of “Ouagadougou,” April 11-13, 2012.

“This Summit was the first step in developing reliable reporting mechanisms that also provide consistent methodologies for monitoring and evaluation in the water sector,” said Dr. Ku McMahan, WA-WASH Program Executive Officer. “Our hope is to use the Pan-African reports we develop to effect real change that can be implemented on a local level.”

The Water Summit was organized by the USAID West Africa Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (USAID WA-WASH) Program in collaboration with the Water Web Consortium, and sponsored by the US Embassy to Burkina Faso and the Minister of Agriculture and Hydraulics of Burkina Faso. WA-WASH is part of the Global Water for Sustainability (GLOWS) Program affiliated with  Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, Florida.

Speakers at the Summit included Dr. Sabne Koando, the Technical Adviser of the Minister of Agriculture and Hydraulics, Dr. Maria Donoso, Director of the Global Waters for Sustainability Program at Florida International University (GLOWS-FIU) and Dr. Lakhdar Boukerrou, Regional Director of USAID WA-WASH.

The WA-WASH program, located in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali and Niger, seeks to increase sustainable access to safe water and sanitation and improve hygiene in West Africa. One of the key objectives is to find effective ways of sharing information about successful projects.

All four West African countries are experiencing climatic variations that could pose serious implications to accessing sufficient and sustainable supplies of freshwater. Climate change also threatens food security, and makes the region more susceptible to the ravages of extreme climate events.

Chief among the challenges to implementing programs: lack of financial resources and synergy in information management as well as the inadequacy of water resources monitoring procedures and even, occasional vandalism of equipment and measuring tools.

Altogether, more than 15 speakers presented ideas on water information systems and communications at the Water Summit. A consensus was reached that water information has to be collected and disseminated in a way that is most accessible and efficient for stakeholders. A greater collaboration among partners of the sub-region and the rest of the world is also critical.

GLOWS (Global Water for Sustainability), a consortium led by Florida International University (FIU), was created in 2005 to implement USAID-funded programs to increase social, economic, and environmental benefits to people through the provision of water supply and sanitation services, healthy aquatic ecosystems and sustainable water resources management.