FEATURE STORY January 25, 2018

Small but Smart: Benin and Togo Cooperate to Ensure Water Security

Image

A Togolese man measures the water level of the internationally-shared Mono River after heavy rainfall and discharges from an upstream dam. When countries cooperate, sharing rainfall data and even co-managing dams, downstream floods can be predicted, prevented, and/or subdued.  Photo by the Togolese Red Cross. 


Highlights

  • Regional cooperation on water resources can minimize the risk of conflict, and set the stage for development benefits beyond what one country could obtain by acting alone.
  • Benin and Togo formed the Mono Basin Authority (MBA) to allow collaborative management and development of the shared Mono River. The MBA performs essential water management functions, such as monitoring hydrological baselines, building consensus and aligning development goals.
  • A recent study on sustainable financing options for the MBA will help ensure continuous funding into the future to sustain its work water security and economic growth in the region.

The Mono River divides the two small West African nations of Benin and Togo. While less than a tenth the size of the Nile and Niger rivers, the Mono provides critical economic value for the two countries. Fishing in river-fed lakes and cultivating irrigated fields sustains livelihoods, and hydropower fuels economic growth across sectors and scales. However, when a river is shared, the threat of unilateral development or a tragedy of the commons-type exploitation pattern can limit the opportunity for economic and environmental benefits. The potential for conflict related to disagreements over the shared river can further cloud the economic and environmental outlooks.

"Water is a sensitive matter. In Western Africa, we have a lot of shared waters and often it leads to conflict,” says Mahamane Toure, Regional Program Officer with the Water Resources Coordination Unit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) works to support regional water resources cooperation in West Africa. For example, in 1981 the Mauritania-Senegal Border War began over a border dispute of the Senegal River and grazing rights. The war severed diplomatic relations between the two nations and created thousands of refugees from each.

Cooperation over the management of the Mono River can help Benin and Togo maximize economic and environmental gains, while also reducing the likelihood of disagreement or conflict. Cooperation over shared water resources can build consensus on the condition of the river, provide a forum for mutually beneficial development, and ensure sustainable management to meet future economic and environmental goals.

While the benefits of cooperation over shared waters are clear, successful cooperation can face many challenges including finding agreeable and effective governance arrangements and achieving good financial health and sustainability for the new management organization.


Image

A woman in Benin collects water. The Mono River is critical to the economies and livelihoods of the people in Benin and Togo. International cooperation over such a shared water resource is essential to reduce the risk of conflict as well as reap maximum benefits for poverty reduction and economic growth. Photo by Arne Hoel.


Small River Basin Authorities Face Financial Challenges

In 2014, the governments of Benin and Togo established the Mono Basin Authority (MBA) to coordinate the management and development of the Mono River. Working cooperatively with a fully functioning Authority, the two countries hope to maximize development benefits while protecting the future value of the resource. In its first year the MBA solicited the central governments of the two countries and civil society to assess needs and actions that can be taken.  The MBA worked to draft a Master Plan for Water Development and Management, and established basin and local water committees. The MBA also set out to strengthen information systems to establish agreed baselines for water quality, supply and health of the river.

In the past, other basin authorities in the region have seen funding dry up, effectively freezing operations and demoralizing the organization. "We want to mitigate the risk of irregular funding, because if water management isn't sustained, and therefore water quality is degraded, the first people to feel the consequences will be the local populations and the most vulnerable," says Toure. This concern is particularly important to small basin authorities that must dedicate a higher proportion of overall operating costs to core staff functions compared to larger basin authorities.  

Toure’s office asked CIWA to do a study to help find innovative financing solutions for the MBA. The goal was to identify options to provide the MBA with lasting and consistent sources of financing, independent from country contributions. A team from CIWA, ECOWAS, and the MBA’s ad hoc Technical Committee of Experts recently concluded that study, called Sustainable Financing Mechanism Study for Mono Basin Authority. It looks at the Authority’s needs and functions, identifies ways to cut costs, evaluates potential sources of financing, and recommends short-, medium-, and long-term ways to finance the authority. The study focused on potential financing mechanisms, including member state contributions, a dedicated regional tax, user fee-based financing, polluter fee-based financing, sale of data and services, project management fees for infrastructure projects, management and administration fees, dividends from an investment fund, donor contributions, and public-private partnerships.

The study found that a small user-fee-based levy to hydropower and the mining sector would be the best solution. This would generate enough resources to finance a compact version of the Authority focused on key functions, and, importantly, “it would allow the organization to function independently from contributions from the states," Toure noted.

With the organization not yet fully operational, the Authority is at a critical stage. Decision-makers still have the flexibility to determine the organizational structure and sources of financing. Toure feels confident that at the next meeting, the Council of Ministers will adopt the recommendations to ensure steady Authority financing. Lessons learned from the MBA and this financing study can be readily shared with other countries considering cooperation over smaller shared water resources. 

In 2014, the governments of Benin and Togo established the Mono Basin Authority (MBA) to coordinate the management and development of the Mono River. Working cooperatively with a fully functioning Authority, the two countries hope to maximize development benefits while protecting the future value of the resource. In its first year the MBA solicited the central governments of the two countries and civil society to assess needs and actions that can be taken.  The MBA worked to draft a Master Plan for Water Development and Management, and established basin and local water committees. The MBA also set out to strengthen information systems to establish agreed baselines for water quality, supply and health of the river.

In the past, other basin authorities in the region have seen funding dry up, effectively freezing operations and demoralizing the organization. "We want to mitigate the risk of irregular funding, because if water management isn't sustained, and therefore water quality is degraded, the first people to feel the consequences will be the local populations and the most vulnerable," says Toure. This concern is particularly important to small basin authorities that must dedicate a higher proportion of overall operating costs to core staff functions compared to larger basin authorities.  

Toure’s office asked CIWA to do a study to help find innovative financing solutions for the MBA. The goal was to identify options to provide the MBA with lasting and consistent sources of financing, independent from country contributions. A team from CIWA, ECOWAS, and the MBA’s ad hoc Technical Committee of Experts recently concluded that study, called Sustainable Financing Mechanism Study for Mono Basin Authority. It looks at the Authority’s needs and functions, identifies ways to cut costs, evaluates potential sources of financing, and recommends short-, medium-, and long-term ways to finance the authority. The study focused on potential financing mechanisms, including member state contributions, a dedicated regional tax, user fee-based financing, polluter fee-based financing, sale of data and services, project management fees for infrastructure projects, management and administration fees, dividends from an investment fund, donor contributions, and public-private partnerships.

The study found that a small user-fee-based levy to hydropower and the mining sector would be the best solution. This would generate enough resources to finance a compact version of the Authority focused on key functions, and, importantly, “it would allow the organization to function independently from contributions from the states," Toure noted.

With the organization not yet fully operational, the Authority is at a critical stage. Decision-makers still have the flexibility to determine the organizational structure and sources of financing. Toure feels confident that at the next meeting, the Council of Ministers will adopt the recommendations to ensure steady Authority financing. Lessons learned from the MBA and this financing study can be readily shared with other countries considering cooperation over smaller shared water resources. 


Api
Api