World Water Day: The answer is in nature

On 22 March, the 25th World Water Day promoted nature-based solutions to address the world’s water challenges. “How can we reduce floods, droughts and water pollution? By using the solutions we already find in nature” was the official theme. The 8th World Water Forum was held in Brasilia, Brazil and brought together some 10 000 water experts and practitioners from the public and private sectors. In West Africa, Foundation Barka, Eau Vive Internationale and other partners organised the First Water Fair in Fada N’Gourma, Burkina Faso from 21-25 March, aimed at promoting a decentralised platform for discussion between water sector stakeholders. The Malian government organised a debate on the theme “Nature for Water” in Bamako. The importance of water is self-evident in the Sahel and West Africa region, which faces a large number of water challenges including: access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation services; growing water demand and water pollution in urban settings; climate-smart solutions for agriculture; peaceful and sustainable management of cross-border water resources, etc. According to UN-Water, in 2017, 90% of the untreated wastewater in sub-Saharan Africa was released into the environment. Some 500 million hectares of land in Africa was lost to erosion, mostly through water erosion. The African Development Bank has launched four flagship initiatives to address the continent’s water challenges (Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative, African Water Facility, NEPAD Water and Sanitation Programme and the Multi-donor Water Partnership Programme). A large number of local solutions and best practices are available on the ground and could be scaled up. The next World Water Forum will be held in Dakar, Senegal, in 2021. It aims to become more inclusive and increase civil society participation.