A new network of mediators to help anticipate and prevent conflicts related to the use of water resources and who also have as mandate to protect the rights of local actors in the Lake Chad Basin has been put in place.
Referred to as “Water Champions”, the network has adopted as a name the 'OYRX', which is symbolic of a very swift local animal (antelope) found in the basin and known to go for months without water.
The group members pre-selected by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, was constituted into a network in Douala, Cameroon, at the end of a two-day training workshop organised from 26 to 27 November 2015 to reinforce the leadership skills and water diplomacy aptitudes of the different participants. It was an initiative of IUCN within the Building River Dialogue and Governance, BRIDGE AFRICA, project in partnership with the Lake Chad Basin Commission, LCBC.
In his opening speech, the Representative of the LCBC, Mr Bila Mohammed, called on the participants "to show proof of their expertise and to come out with concrete solutions to the local and transboundary challenges faced in the basin".
Speaking on behalf of IUCN, Ms Camille JEPANG said "IUCN is committed to finding solutions to pressing environmental problems hence the BRIDGE project and moreso, its interest in ensuring equitable and equal access to water resources in the Lake Chad Basin, for all inhabitants".
According to the IUCN-PACO Regional Coordinator for BRIDGE Africa, Sandrine Sankara, the “Members of the network are representatives of the local population at different levels including members of parliament, mayors, civil society representatives and traditional rulers who were already involved in defending the rights of their indigenes in the use of water resources, so BRIDGE only came in to reinforce the negotiation and lobbying skills of these potential Champions and to constitute them into a competent network to share good practices.”
The members of the network have been drawn from countries of the LCB including Niger, Chad and Cameroon and “the fact that they were able to define the role and objectives of the network and to draw up a roadmap and five-year vision after the training workshop shows how committed they are in implementing the integrated Water Resources management approach and this is very important,” said Ms Sankara.
The five-year plan spanning to 2020, will basically seek to ensure that the local population has equitable access to clean and sufficient water to satisfy their needs and rights and conserve soft water resources in the LCB, its ecosystem and biodiversity.
The champions will do so by sustaining transboundary cooperation for a concerted and equitable management of water resources in the Lake Chad basin.