The Sahel region is endowed with a lot of water resources from rivers, permanent water ponds and rich aquifers. These water resources are interconnected with forest resources either at national or sub-regional levels and control the productive capacity and the livelihoods of the populations. In the Sahel the most important watersheds and river basins are the Niger River basin, the Lake Chad watershed, the Senegal River basin, the Gambia River Basin and the Volta River Basin. Each country of the sub-region shares international water with its related forest ecosystems. A basic weakness in all the river basin commissions or authorities is a lack of political will. The compelling evidence of the degradation of most of the rivers and their basins, and the urgency of the need for restoration, has stimulated member countries to muster some political will to cooperate. Most of the policies and institutions required to prevent environmental degradation, and promote sustainable development, are similar throughout the sub-region and a number of community projects are ongoing or planned in which stakeholders are involved at various stages. As part of its contribution to managing the African forests sustainably, as well as generating and sharing knowledge and information for sustainable forest management, the African Forest Forum commissioned a study on the broad area of forest–water relations, covering the Sahelian region.
The issues addressed in this study include: the extent of shared commitment to and desire to promote synergy and strengthen cooperation of the member states on water, water issues in the sub-region, water supply in the region as related to forest ecosystems, learning and sharing of experiences and best practices, potential for collaboration in managing and using water resources and related forest ecosystems in the sub-region. This was essentially a desk study primarily aimed at identifying the major water resources in the sub-region, how they are linked to various forest ecosystems that serve as water catchment forests, and challenges and opportunities in managing these forests to improve supply of quality water to the sub-region.
This report provides a modest initial step in this direction, by highlighting key aspects related to the link between these two resources, as well as some issues that could be addressed by various stakeholders including researchers, local communities and policy makers. The report has been made possible through collaborative efforts of the African Forest Forum and Dr. Abasse Tougiani was responsible for writing this report.
Prof. Godwin Kowero
Executive Secretary, African Forest Forum.