Integrated water solutions for climate change adaptation in West Africa


The context

Water-related natural disasters are major obstacles to human well-being and sustainable development. Almost three quarters of all natural disasters between 2001 and 2018 were related to water (UNESCO and UN-Water 2020). Climate change has made extreme weather events more severe by altering their frequency, timing, intensity and duration. In West Africa, climate change impacts manifest especially through floods and droughts. Without adequate adaptation and mitigation measures, hundreds of millions of people will be at greater risk of hunger, disease, energy shortages and poverty due to water scarcity, pollution or flooding.

Key messages

  • Climate change projections call for adaptation and mitigation measures at different scales and the use of integrated water solutions.

  • Early warning systems and climateresilient water storage infrastructure are crucial for combatting drought.

  • Measures should be promoted that enhance water-use efficiency, participatory and inclusive water landscape plans, risk and vulnerability assessments, and demand-driven digital innovations.

Key issues

In recent decades, water shortages in sub-Saharan Africa have become more intense and less predictable. Climate change is expected to aggravate the situation further by affecting temperatures, rainfall patterns, and the frequency and intensity of storms. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (Niang et al. 2014), West Africa will be particularly hard hit. Largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture and already vulnerable to floods and droughts, the region faces declining crop yields by as early as 2050 if the projected global temperature increases are realized.

Climate change adaptation and mitigation measures are, therefore, essential to ensure long-term food security and sustainable development. Water is at the heart of all these measures. Applying decades of experience in water management at national, river basin and municipal levels, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is working to improve climate resilience and reduce risks for vulnerable communities across West Africa. We do this by equipping people and societies with the knowledge and solutions needed to anticipate, withstand and recover from the impacts of climate change.