Burkina Faso is one of the Sahelian countries hardest hit by the effects of climate change, experiencing torrential rains and floods, as well as periods of insufficient rainfall.
To help address these challenges, through adaptation, resilience and concerted, shared management of its water resources, Burkina Faso officially confirmed on 19 January 2024 its wish to accede to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, more commonly known as the Water Convention.
This was confirmed by the Minister of the Environment, Water and Sanitation, Mr. Roger Baro, who indicated during the workshop that he and his counterpart, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, would be taking the necessary steps to adopt the instruments for Burkina Faso's accession.
This forthcoming accession represents a decisive step for the region, as Burkina will join the nine other African countries already party to the Convention, namely Chad, Senegal, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Togo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Namibia and Gambia.
What makes Burkina Faso special as a Sahelian country is its position on three transboundary watersheds: the Comoé, Volta and Niger basins. It shares most of its water resources with some of its neighboring countries, namely Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger and Togo. The rapid increase in demand for water due to population growth (Burkina Faso has a population of 22.1 million, with an annual population growth rate of almost 3%), urbanization, intensification of irrigated agriculture, growing industrialization and current security threats in the Sahel are posing ever-greater challenges to the sustainable management of the country's shared water resources. The sustainability of these water resources is also threatened by the effects of climate change.
Joining the Water Convention will enable Burkina Faso to consolidate its existing cooperation with neighbouring countries
In such a context, cross-border cooperation represents a necessary tool for tackling some of these challenges - by providing a forum for discussion between riparian countries to identify joint solutions. In this respect, Burkina Faso has already signed several agreements on its shared resources, such as the Volta Basin Authority (VBA) Convention, the Niger Basin Authority (NBA) Convention and the Comoé-Bia-Tanoe Basin Authority Convention.
These agreements have led to the creation of key basin organizations in the region, namely the Volta Basin Authority and the Niger Basin Authority (NBA), of which Burkina Faso is also a founding member.
On a bilateral level, Burkina has signed agreements to set up joint technical committees on integrated water resource management, notably with Ghana for the Nakanbé basin and with Mali for the Sourou basin, two sub-basins of the Volta River.
Joining the Water Convention will enable Burkina Faso to consolidate its existing cooperation with neighbouring countries, by facilitating the implementation and application of these regional legal frameworks.
The recent inclusion of transboundary cooperation on water resources and their sustainable management in the COP 28 climate decisions on the global goal on adaptation and global stocktake has confirmed the key role and importance of cooperation in climate change adaptation for shared basins.
The Water Convention also provides a solid basis to help mobilize financing and reduce investment risks in water infrastructure
In this respect, Burkina's forthcoming accession to the Water Convention will help to give political priority to the issue of water resource management in the region, by strengthening cooperation at both political and technical levels, enabling a better response to climatic hazards affecting water resources. This will also be an occasion to take into account the inherent interactions between access to water, food security and regional instability, in order to further secure the livelihoods of millions of people, most of whom depend on rain-fed agriculture and livestock breeding.
The Water Convention also provides a solid basis to help mobilize financing and reduce investment risks in water infrastructure. The presence at the workshop of technical and financial partners such as the African Development Bank, the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), the Global Water Partnership/West Africa and Luxembourg, for whom Burkina Faso is a priority country, underlined how a legal framework such as the Water Convention can help create the right conditions for these partners to support the country in improving the management of shared water resources at national and transboundary level. Ms Kanzie Savadogo, representative of the Country Office of the African Development Bank (ADB), lead partner for the country's water sector, pointed out that the ADB has financial mechanisms (Facility, trust funds, calls for projects) that can be used to support the implementation of the Convention, in particular funds for the development of investment projects linked to water management, as well as funds to support adaptation to climate change.
The national workshop, which brought together more than 70 participants, was organized with the financial support of the European Union through the "Promoting accession to the Water Convention" project, which aims to strengthen transboundary cooperation on water and the sustainable and peaceful management of shared water resources.