"Water is a huge paradox in Chad"

from Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
Published on 22 Jan 2016 View Original

Rémadji Mani has worked as a national programme officer for the SDC in Chad since 2014. She was a guest speaker at the SDC annual conference in 2015 on the topic of the 2030 Agenda, where she spoke during a round table on universality in water management practices in Chad and in Switzerland. We met her ahead of the conference.

Chad faces many challenges in the water sector. A large part of the country suffers from a chronic shortage of water, even though the country has extensive underground and surface resources. The existing infrastructure does not guarantee secure access to water for all and global warming and a growing population further complicate the situation. Rémadji Mani sees the 2030 Agenda as a reason for hope.

What water projects has the SDC launched in Chad?

There is no specific water programme, but the SDC organises different projects linked to water management. I can tell you about four of them. The project to map water resources launched in 2015 has made it possible to put in place a system to record information on water resources and produce hydrogeological maps for the country.

The drinking water, hygiene and sanitation project aims to reduce waterborne diarrhoeal disease in certain districts. It has improved the health of 300'000 people thanks to new drilling, rehabilitation of drinking-water sources and the building of latrines and handwashing facilities.

Another project supports pastoral livestock farming, which is the main source of income for communities in the Sahelian and Saharan regions of Chad. Three regions – 700'000 people – benefit from this project. A hundred pastoral wells, 10 dugouts and 500 kilometres of grazing corridors have already been created, in addition to support for livestock farming.

Finally, storm-water management in the Sahel region of Chad aims to reduce desertification and contribute to the food security of 100,000 people. River weirs have been built, which has led to the rehabilitation and irrigation of several valleys.

Why is this partnership between Switzerland and Chad important?

Switzerland is one of Chad's biggest donors. In fact, I'd even say it's Chad's biggest donor if you consider how long Switzerland has offered continued support, and the trust built over more than 50 years. The SDC works with innovative long-term projects that always bring results. The government in Chad often cites them in example.

Switzerland helped Chad to revise its cooperation strategy and set out areas of activity and geographic focuses. Poor rural communities are first in line for assistance. The partnership is based on trust and dialogue. The Chadian ministry in charge co-chairs the steering committee of the Swiss programmes. The problems are identified in joint agreement with the Chadian representatives. The partnership is going well and is still important in the eyes of the local people.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development reminded us that 884 million people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water and that agriculture accounts for 70% of usage. What is the situation in Chad?

52% of Chadians have access to safe drinking water and sanitation. But this percentage varies from region to region. In Tibesti for example, in the far north of the country, only between 5 and 18% of people have access to safe drinking water. 19'000 Chadians including 15'900 children under five die each year from diarrhoea. Some 90% of these deaths are down to unclean water and poor sanitation and hygiene. The country currently consumes 1'269 million m3 of water annually. Agriculture alone consumes over a billion m3. Integrated water management is crucial for Chad.

Did the situation regarding water resources and water management in Chad change during the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) from 2000-2015?

The MDGs were included in the country's national policy and translated into strategic objectives.

A master plan for water and sanitation (SDEA) was introduced. Since Chad had fallen behind in this sector, it helped make the efforts to catch up more coherent and visible. With support from its partners, the Chadian government irrigated new areas and installed new drinking-water facilities. Approximately 15'000 additional hectares of irrigated agricultural land was created and access to safe drinking water increased from 21 to 52% between 2000 and 2015.

However, only a small share of the country's population has benefited from these activities. A country in the Sahel, Chad is also suffering the negative impacts from climate change. Forty years ago, Lake Chad covered 25'000 km2. Today its surface area is under 2'000 km2. Some experts say the drying up of the lake has opened up new land for farming to feed a population that has quadrupled in the region. But for how much longer? The people who settle on Lake Chad are fleeing the negative impacts of climate change in the regions where they come from.

How can the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development improve water management and conservation?

The 2030 Agenda creates hope for Chad. The country has come up with its own contribution called ‘Le Tchad que nous voulons’ (The Chad We Want), which is supported by the president. The national programme of action is organised in three five-year plans. The 2016–2020 plan, which is currently being developed, includes major efforts to improve access to water. Over 11 billion dollars will be allocated to two programmes to develop access to water and promote intensive farming that uses water efficiently. Priority will be given to disadvantaged areas and new sources of financing are encouraged.

What points in particular does Chad need to address to achieve goal 6 – ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all – by 2030?

To achieve goal 6 on the 2030 Agenda, Chad needs to intensify its efforts to keep up with its own annual population growth rate of 1.89%. To do that, the country needs to gain better knowledge of its own resources and various needs. Chad must support pastoral livestock farming and expand irrigation and access to livestock watering points to mitigate climate risks. Forest and aquatic ecosystems must be protected. Installing new water facilities in towns and villages will increase access to drinking water.