Environmental protection and sustainable management of the Okavango River Basin

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Project ID

Project Title

Environmental protection and sustainable management of the Okavango River Basin


Focus Areas

Geographic Scope

Lead Organization(s)

Project Partners


Total: $5,391,000;

Sources of Financing: Global Environment Facility (GEF)


2003 - 2010



Project website(s)




Although the Okavango River Basin is still one of the least human impacted basins on the African continent mounting socio-economic pressures in the riparian countries, Angola, Botswana and Namibia, threaten to change the basin’s character. In the long term this may result in irreversable environmental breakdown and the consequent loss of the considerable domestic and global benefits conferred by the basin’s rich biodiversity. The 580,000 inhabitants of the river basin (Angola 250,000, Botswana 140,000, Namibia 190,000), mostly live in mixed agro-pastoral low income communities and are highly dependent upon the basin’s freshwater resources for basic subsistence and income generation. Land and water resources are also vital to the Okavango Delta’s profitable tourist industry. However economic development, urban and industrial growth outside the basin area is creating new demand for water resources while disparate levels of dependence upon the basin’s natural resource base in each country create barriers to harmonized development of the basin as a whole.

Botswana needs more water for its mining and mineral-led economic growth and also values the delta for the tourism revenue it generates. Demand for municipal and industrial water is rising in Namibia where the Okavango is the only perennial river system. Post-war reconstruction of Angola is also increasing water demand. Recognising that action was needed if the basin is to continue to furnish its flow of environmental benefits, and that freshwater resources are critical to their shared national interests of maintaining or increasing economic and development growth while at the same time addressing poverty alleviation and sustainable livelihoods, Angola, Botswana and Namibia established the Permanent Okavango River Basin Commission (OKACOM) in 1994 to oversee all transboundary water issues.

Project description

The project was designed to alleviate imminent long-term threats to the linked land and water systems of the Okavango River Basin through joint management of the water resources and the protection of its linked aquatic ecosystems and their biological diversity. Its threefold strategy aims to overcome current policy, institutional, human resource and information barriers and constraints to co-ordination and joint management of the basin; to complete a transboundary analysis (TDA); and to design and implement a Strategic Action Plan (SAP) for joint management of threats to the basin’s linked land and water systems.


The project objective is to alleviate imminent and long-term threats to the linked land and water systems of the OR through the joint management of the ORB water resources and the protection of its linked aquatic ecosystems, comprising all wetlands, fluvial and lacustrine systems, and their biological diversity. A two-stage approach has been adopted. Stage 1, the subject of this intervention, will involve the preparation of the SAP. Stage 2, the subject of a subsequent intervention, will involve implementation of the SAP.

Other objectives include increasing awareness, consultation and stakeholder communications; developing knowledge based planning frameworks building basin-wide technical criteria, and developing indicators and benchmark monitoring arrangements. The project will also provide specialized training for all levels of technical and professional level staff in water, environmental and community development agencies as well as specialist training in investment analysis and resource mobilization to service stakeholder participation and donor consultations.

Expected project results
  • Established the Project Management Unit in Luanda, Angola.
  • Recruited the Project Manager and the Basin Planner.
  • Established National Coordinating Units and National Project Coordinators in the three countries.
  • Completed the rehabilitation of five hydrometric stations in the Angolan part of the basin.
  • Initiated the rehabilitation of seven more.
  • Supporting hydrometric data collection and processing in Angola.
  • Supporting data sharing and integration protocol through OKACOM.
  • Developing environmental flows assessment with partner GEF project.
  • Initiated the establishment of teams for the TDA.
  • A Data Gap Analysis is in progress.
  • A Community Participation Strategy is underway.

Expected Outcomes

Achievements: Results and Impact

Lessons for Replication


See also


External Resources


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