From creating national and Transboundary Platforms for the promotion of dialogue in the Lake Chad Basin, the different actors in the region have come together to upgrade their skills on Integrated Water Resources Management, IWRM and on how to prevent conflict associated with the use of shared water bodies. This was in a two-day workshop in Douala, Cameroon organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN within its Building River Dialogue and Governance, BRIDGE AFRICA, Project.
The workshop ran from the 24 to the 25 of November, 2015 and brought together over thirty local and national actors from the Lake Chad region particularly from Cameroon and Chad.
Opening the workshop, the representative of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, LCBC, Mohammed Bila, said "with the new water charter as legal framework to define management in the Lake Chad Basin, it is taking a new direction and every stakeholder has to participate in its management. Highlighting the fact that only government ministries had hitherto been involved in its running," Mr Bila was hopeful that "the inclusion of community leaders, local representatives and Civil Society members, would be an opportunity to implement a bottom-top approach where everyone’s interest is considered".
Laying emphasis on resource exploitation, Camille JEPANG, in charge of Institutional Policy and Development at IUCN Cameroon, said "it should be sustainable to ensure the fight against poverty and also ensure that local communities have benefits from it to improve their living standards".
The courses dispensed by Professor Mathias Fonteh from the University of Dschang in Cameroon included ‘Legal Framework in Water Resources Management’, ‘Integrated Water Resources Management (with the use of illustrative boxes),’ ‘Conflict prevention and Management in the use of shared water bodies’, ‘Good Practices in the efficient use of Water’ and ‘Adaptation to climate change.’
In her presentation of the project, the IUCN-PACO Regional Coordinator for BRIDGE, Sandrine Sankara, said "the setting up of the different platforms both national and transboundary, will ensure a fluid cooperation between countries of the region".
Another issue discussed during the workshop was the shrinking of the lake. About 50 percent of the decrease in the lake’s size since the 1960s has been attributed to human water use, with the remainder blamed on the shifting climate patterns. Invasive plant species currently cover about 50 percent of the remaining surface of Lake Chad. Research carried out over the past 40 years also indicates that the main factors in the shrinking of the lake have been firstly, major overgrazing in the region which results in a loss of vegetation and serious deforestation and contributes to a drier climate. Moreso, large and unsustainable irrigation projects built by Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad are said to have diverted water from both the lake and the Chari and Logone rivers.
It should be noted that the BRIDGE AFRICA project has as aim to build water governance capacities through learning, demonstration, leadership, and consensus-building, in particular in transboundary river basins.