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Winrock to Lead $39M USAID Water Security and Resilience Activity in Sahel

The USAID Water Security and Resilience activity in Niger and Burkina Faso will build resilience to shocks and stressors through optimized land use and improved access to water

Winrock International’s Sustainable Water Partnership (SWP) will lead a groundbreaking $39 million USAID initiative to foster resilience and improve water security in one of the world’s most impoverished and vulnerable regions.

The USAID Water Security and Resilience activity in the Sahel is part of USAID’s Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced program, which supports vulnerable communities in Burkina Faso and Niger to effectively prepare for and manage recurrent crises and pursue sustainable pathways out of poverty.

The intervention areas lie in the Sahel, an arid band stretching across Africa south of the Sahara Desert. Eighty percent of the population lives in rural villages that rely on subsistence farming and pastoralism. Population growth accentuates the over-exploitation of scarce arable land and water, causing conflicts among villages or between ethnic or socio-economic groups such as pastoralists and farmers.

Poor governance and limited economic opportunity can increase the probability of human trafficking and violent extremism among youth, while climate variability and change can exacerbate the occurrence and magnitude of droughts, floods and epidemics. Such shocks can destabilize rural populations and the entire region.

Winrock’s Eric Viala, who will lead the USAID Water Security and Resilience activity in the Sahel, believes now is a crucial moment for the region.

“In this vulnerable region of the world, recurring shocks such as droughts and socio-political conflicts can instantly plunge rural populations into destitution and famine with little ability to recover, contributing to political instability,” Viala said. “However, it is possible to reduce vulnerabilities by addressing root causes and collaborating with people on the local level to build their capacity.”

There are positive developments that can enable chronically vulnerable populations to sustainably escape poverty and manage shocks and stresses. Both countries have initiated decentralization processes allowing rural communes to elect their own councils, provide local services and plan their own development. The USAID Water Security and Resilience activity in the Sahel will build on these advances to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and develop water security, sustainable land use, gender equality and legal frameworks.

The USAID Water Security and Resilience activity in the Sahel will promote resilience through five key strategies in Burkina Faso and Niger:

  • Coordinate efforts across the USAID Water Security and Resilience activity in the Sahel portfolio including Development Food and Nutrition Security Activities to maximize impacts
  • Engage and strengthen rural communes as sustainable resilience hubs
  • Increase agency and voice of most vulnerable groups such as women, youths and pastoralists
  • Deploy a system-based and risk-focused water security approach
  • Demonstrate improved and resilient water and land use practices and disseminate these for larger-scale adoption

“We will mobilize internal resources and skills and empower community leaders to diversify livelihoods, prevent and address local conflicts, and prepare for and mitigate natural and socio-economic shocks, thus becoming more self-reliant and resilient,” Viala said.

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