There’s something about the partnership of the Pangani River Basin Project that conveys an unwritten sense of vision and purpose. From the highest levels of government and donors, to the officials on the ground, all involved appear to be working to a plan and a demarcated path that is clearly taking them into the future.

IUCN Tanzanian Country Office Director, Abdulrahman Issa, believes the expressed confidence in the Project is the fruits of early preparatory work. 

When we saw the success of those early days, we understood the necessity to integrate the various outputs into a larger project,” explains Issa in reference to how a small beginning has given birth to a significant basin-wide initiative. 

An initial situation analysis of the basin carried out in August 2002 by the Pangani Basin Water Office (the government management body of water resources in the basin), IUCN, and social dialogue and governance agency Pamoja, highlighted the needs and opportunities for a larger, integrated project intervention.

We needed to throw out a rope and see what uptake there was,” says Kelly West, who at the time was IUCN’s East Africa Regional Coordinator for Water and Wetlands

In those days, the project operated on US$100,000/year from the IUCN Water and Nature Initiative (WANI), which was used to support three small pilot projects, including awareness-raising and planning for a comprehensive flow assessment in Pangani Basin; an economic evaluation to determine the economic value of the water under different uses; and, a dialogue and conflict resolution scenario analysis. 

These early activities were critical. We essentially had two years in which to listen to user needs in the basin; carry out small activities; refine our understanding of the issues; establish our own operational infrastructure; and plan for a larger initiative. The small budgets kept us focussed and allowed us to test the sustainability of the partnerships,” says West. 

It was nervous days, however, as the need for a larger and more comprehensive project, requiring further environmental and social analysis, became apparent. The New Water Policy of Tanzania was launched in 2002. Of significance was the Policy’s focus on local management of water resources and the strengthening of appropriate structures at this level. The necessary finance, however, wasn’t as obvious. 

Our information from the basin was developing all the time. We knew what we could do. It was just an issue of finding the funding,” recalls West.

What transpired thereafter was a hard-fought three and a half year exploration for suitable co-funding to implement a basin-wide environmental flow analysis; continued stakeholder engagement and conflict resolution activities; and, plan and implement a sub-catchment management forum in the upper western headwaters of the Pangani. 

The groundwork of the pilot projects were enough to convince both the Global Environment Facility (through the United Nations Development Fund) and the European Union’s Water Facility, both of which committed to the larger project and effectively extended its operations in the basin to 2009. 

The fact that we, the IUCN, were able to come to the table with our own initial funding, is extremely important,” says West in support of the co-funding concept. “It allows us to scale-up our projects to meaningful interventions and ensures we avoid unnecessary duplication.”

While West was busy enticing the project’s potential funding partners, the future plan that Issa refers to was gathering momentum all the time. Julius Sarmett, who was Pangani Basin Water Officer at the time, is adamant that the information gathering activities of the early projects have been instrumental in operationalising the objectives of the new Policy. 

That level of information gathering and guidance, needs to be replicated in the development of water resource management plans in other basins throughout Tanzania,” says Sarmett. 

Sarmett, himself, has taken the institutional memory of those early days with him into a new position as Water Basin Manager for Tanzania’s largest river basin, the Wami – the river that ultimately feeds the urban water supply for the country’s capital and largest city, Dar es Salaam.
Written by Alex Hetherington