The Nile being one of the Africa’s longest rivers if not the world’s, has rich historical background regarding its contributions to nations’ building hence forming a back bone to economic development of many nations in Africa.
The riparian States of the Nile River Basin, namely, Rwanda, Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda to mention but a few, are busy working on cooperation in the utilization of the waters of the Nile River Basin for equal benefit sharing due to political tensions that have been growing over the years resulting from conflicts of interest regarding its ownership and exploitation, while this river runs through these countries, to some of them, it’s considered as a life and wealth giver whereas to others it’s just another tourist site.
This however has been due to differences in natural resources endowment within these countries where to some it is considered, the only primary source of development while to others it’s secondary implying variations in the degree of economic importance attached to it.
While many scholars maintain that water scarcity has the greatest potential for instability in the political sphere, insist that social inequalities in water distribution, use, and development create a much greater problem in establishing cooperation and avoiding local, state, regional, and international tensions and conflicts especially on the issues regarding the location of countries in relation to the upstream and the downstream of the shared waters.
This has been proved to insight a lot of conflicts when a nation that has the downstream is stronger than those with the upstream of the shared river basin.
Some conflicts researchers affirm that considering the principal forces that conspire to create scarcity and its potential to incite conflict or dispute, it appears that unequal distribution often plays the most important role.
In history there have been disputes among the riparian states emanating from the management of the Nile Basin whereby as mentioned earlier due to relative economic importance attached to its usage, some countries feel to have more powers regarding its management and control which has accelerated tensions and hindered agreements on many important regional issues.
However many approaches to find a common understanding and end tensions have been started and the important one was the meeting of the Council of Ministers held in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania in 1999 establishing a Transitional Institutional Mechanism of the Nile Basin Initiative pending the conclusion of a Cooperative Framework Agreement based on a vision to achieve sustainable socioeconomic development through equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile Basin water resources which is expected in the near future.
The Nile Basin Initiative aims at establishing regional cooperation and mutually beneficial relationships among all Nile Basin countries functioning as a broad program of international importance.
This means that through this initiative, member countries are also creating a plat form for conflict resolutions where regional cooperation is needed.
NBI is abroad investment program that is aimed at developing water resources of the Nile Basin in a bid to fight poverty and achieve social-economic development through equitable and sustainable benefit sharing.
The mission of the NBI which is cooperation and integration of the riparian states based on Nile waters through cooperative investments in the development and management of Nile basin water resources provides a basis for benefit creation and sharing accruing from the chosen projects that are meant for poverty reduction and sustainable development of respective communities along the Basin.
This concept of benefit sharing to become more operational there was a need to identify stakeholders according to their degree of involvement in the affairs of the Nile Basin; these were categorized as primary and secondary stakeholders.
Though drawing a distinct difference between the two categories may seem difficult, however on one hand the former is defined as the key players in the NBI and these are sovereign states which signed the initiative and on the other hand, the latter is referred to as communities and institutions whose activities in one way or the other have a linkage to the Nile Basin.
The NBI approach to surpass the primary to map and analyze secondary stakeholders of the Basin is an attempt to create a collaborative framework of all stakeholders in this matter, the fact that all NBI projects are meant to alleviate poverty within communities of the Nile Basin, there was a need to identify them along with their levels of participation in the Nile.
Though their relationships to the Nile are dynamic and not equal where some are less active than others and some could even participate in the investments in the Basin, the significance of the whole process is to create a plat form on which every stakeholder small or big could channel every contribution possible to make the target objectives of the initiative achievable.
Sustainable water resource management and development forms one of the important elements in Rwanda’s long and short term development agenda in which poverty among the local populations could be alleviated.
The Rwandan economy being primarily dependent on natural resources where over 87% of the population depends on subsistence agriculture for its livelihood, mapping and analysis of secondary stakeholders would help in identifying the key players among them in terms of investments in the Nile Basin like improving water usage in agricultural activities through the creation of irrigation systems that would enhance production and productivity on farm lands.
On the other hand among the targets of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy/EDPRS is to ensure sustainable flow of safe water in both public and private entities.
Therefore the involvement of secondly stakeholders which are comprised of beneficiaries of NBI will help in understanding the urgency and importance of projects that are implemented through a participatory framework that will shape their capacity to contribute to poverty reduction and growth hence providing opportunities for meaningful benefits that are relevant to their respective livelihoods.
From the Rwanda’s perspective it becomes a big challenge when identifying who is a stakeholder of the Nile Basin and who is not due to the fact that no business or household that is not affected by the activities of the Nile Basin, the major problem today in the field of environmental protection is the imbalance between the population and the natural resources which has led to degradation resulting from human activities, that is observed through massive deforestation, erosion and landslides, pollution of waterways and the degradation of fragile ecosystems, such as swamps and wetlands.
These environmental problems are exacerbated by the poor location of industries, residential houses and their direct evacuation of wastes, without any treatment, into waterways and lakes.
This has led to deterioration of water bodies leading to decrease in water levels which has in turn led to poor electricity and water connections hence stunting the whole process of production in both agriculture and industrial sectors of the country.
This therefore makes almost everyone working and residing in Rwanda a stakeholder of this initiative because any environmental degrading activity carried out elsewhere, negatively impacts the Nile basin in short or long run.
In order to ensure sustainable water development and management in Rwanda, there is a need to implement adequate water management techniques through the identification of all stakeholders and their levels of relationships to the Nile Basin.
This will act as a basis of developing a national comprehensive water management policy that includes other water bodies in the country.
However, unless this is matched by the political will and sufficient resources to build capacity and strengthen those institutions charged with implementing such policy, there will be little impact on the current situation and little will be achieved regarding environmental protection as a whole.
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