Water, the driving force of nature, is an important natural resource to all forms of life and their existence. For Somalia, it is the backbone of social, economic and environmental growth and prosperity. Yet, the growing demands for water and its increasing scarcity is a growing concern. Somalia is a water scarce country with approximately 411 m3 of renewable fresh water per capita as of 2017 (World Bank, 2020). This is a staggering decline over time from 2 087 m3 in 1962 (ibid) which is far below the UN recommended threshold of 1 000 m3 per capita per year. This continuous decline in freshwater availability has resulted in fierce competition over water resources and has resulted in conflicts in some regions of Somalia. The deteriorating quality of groundwater resources as a result of overexploitation, increasing population and pollution is another challenge. Further, these challenges will be exacerbated by climate change which has been manifested through recurrent floods and droughts. With the mean annual rainfall expected to increase by 1%, 3% and 4% by 2030, 2050 and 2080, respectively (using the 1981-2000 reference period) (FGS, 2015), more severe floods are expected in future periods.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted Somalia’s growth trajectory with the economy contracting by 2.5% in 2020 (World Bank, 2020). More importantly, the pandemic has raised the water, sanitation and hygiene agenda that has become a key element in the defence against the disease’s spread. This has highlighted the urgency of strengthening water infrastructure, water resources management and governance, equitable water supply, and enhanced water quality standards especially since over 49% of the Somali population does not have access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services.
Within this context, water governance in Somalia is impacted by limited horizontal and vertical coordination between water sector institutions and those sector institutions supporting socioeconomic development. In many instances these institutions have limited resources and stretched capacity. These institutions play a key role in supporting the evolving policy, legal and institutional framework, in strengthening water resource management based upon improved scientific data and information, and in developing infrastructure to support development and address climate extremes.
The Imperative to Act
Cognisant of the myriad of challenges facing Somalia’s declining water resources, the Federal Government of Somalia continues to make progressive strides to safeguard its water resources. This includes progressive effort to develop a sound constitutional framework to solidify its political settlement and state-building reforms and enact legislative and regulatory instruments to anchor the institutional development process, and this is particularly the case for the water sector.
The need to develop the economy of Somalia to address high levels of poverty is outlined in the National Development Plan 2020-2024 (NDP-9), which also notes that water is a key natural resource that needs to be effectively managed and sustainably developed to support the growth and development the country needs.
Availability of water, of sufficient quality, has a direct bearing on Somalia’s ability to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, and 13, in terms of ending poverty, ending hunger and achieving food security, ensuring healthy lives, ensuring gender equality, access to clean water and sanitation, promoting sustainable economic growth, and taking climate action respectively.
The complexity of managing Somalia’s water resources requires a strategic national approach that involves the engagement of key government actors, the private sector, civil society, as well as the support of a range of international cooperating partners and development financing institutions.
The Strategic Response
This NWRS provides a suite of strategies, objectives, and actions for the water sector for the 2021-2025 period. However, some of the outcomes will only be realised in the longer-term. The NWRS targets to unlock key actions and align with the Provisional Constitution (2012), Sustainable Development Goals and sectoral policies and laws. The NDP-9 will be the key driver for the NWRS over the next 5 to 10 years.
The Vision of the NWRS is:
“Sustainable, equitable and secure water for national unity, growth and well-being, for all and in harmony with nature”
Under the NWRS, there are three Strategic Goals for this first edition that provides the basis for future water sector developments: Goal 1: Establishing a Functional Water Sector Governance Framework - Provides the strategic approach and actions towards strengthening water sector governance; Goal 2: Operationalising Integrated Water Resources Management – Provides the strategic approach and actions towards improved and integrated water resource management as a basis for ensuring sustainable water resource development and the provision of sanitation services. Goal 3: Improving the Provision of Priority Water Services – Provides the strategic approach and actions to guide the development of water resources to realise improvements in the various services. During the assessment phase of the strategy development, many issues and challenges were identified. These were collated into clusters, resulting in twenty sub-strategies that will collectively realise the three Goals. The entire NWRS is underpinned by best practice principles and values that follow thematic relevance throughout the document.
To respond to the suite of strategies, objectives, and actions provided in this NWRS, there is a realisation that the attainment of longer-term objectives will take a phased and progressive, developmental approach that enables Somalia to pragmatically attain sustainable outcomes. This needs to be supported by relevant institutional arrangements, cooperating partners and a monitoring and evaluation framework that will enable the MoEWR to monitor and report on progress.
Complimenting the NWRS, a NWRS Roadmap that provides clarity on key priorities and supporting actions, roles and responsibilities as well as milestones and targets has been developed. The roadmap outlines the establishment of appropriate cooperative platforms to support and guide the programming of actions as well as to oversee and evaluate progress.