Turning Concepts into Action: ABCG and IRC Hold Session on Advocacy in Africa at World Water Week 2021

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WWweek 2021, credits: Trond Larsen

At the recently concluded World Water Week 2021 that took place on August 23-27, 2021, ABCG and IRC held a session on Advocacy in Africa: Tools for integrating WASH- conservation in local agendas.

Improvement of the health of freshwater ecosystems is one of the Africa Biodiversity Collaborative Group (ABCG) key focus areas. In support of the USAID Biodiversity Policy, ABCG is linking freshwater conservation and water, sanitation, and hygiene (FW-WASH) to proactively engage diverse, local community actors in advocacy efforts for improved policies.

The linking of WASH and environmental conservation in policy enables truly, sustainable WASH that is greatly needed in sub-Saharan Africa.

While officially opening the session, Kirstin Siex, Senior Biodiversity Advisor, United States Agency for International Development Bureau for Africa (USAID) noted that, “advocacy is one of many steps and approaches to improve freshwater conservation and WASH management, not an end result”. “Even after successful advocacy, much work remains” she added.

“ABCG has a culture of promoting successful biodiversity conservation with multisectoral approaches, and this session shows how strong partnerships like these can advance our mutual water conservation, WASH and health integration outcomes” Kirstin said.

Advocacy is the practical use of knowledge for purposes of social changes directed to government policies, laws and procedures. A well-designed advocacy strategy is fundamental for turning concepts into action. The training showcased a free tool for designing advocacy strategies, enabled participants practice this core skill, and connected practitioners tackling similar challenges in Africa.


Experiences with Integrated Advocacy and Tools

Conservation and WASH practitioners from Kenya and South Africa shared how they are using advocacy to improve water conservation and human health outcomes by reaching out to partners to create alliances for change.

Since 2015, ABCG members Conservation International through its affiliate Conservation South Africa and the Jane Goodall Institute have been piloting projects on FW-WASH integration in South Africa and Uganda, respectively. Following the success of these pilot projects, ABCG has been advancing the adoption of FW-WASH approaches that are critical for the health of humans and freshwater conservation through the use of advocacy.

Thando Musomi, from Conservation South Africa shared how through advocacy efforts they have been able to create an enabling environment for decision makers within the Alfred Nzo District Municipality (ANDM) of South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province to begin understanding and adopting the proposed cost-effective, and sustainable methods of achieving water provision mandate, with a low environmental impact. The Advocacy Strategy for the uMzimvubu Landscape, South Africa is that the “The Alfred Nzo District Municipality (ANDM) Infrastructure Department has institutionalized a coordinated and integrated planning process for water resources by 2022”.

In Kenya, Eunice Kivuva and Judith Chepkemoi from the Centre for Social Planning and Administrative Development (CESPAD) shared how through advocacy they have been able to realize successful project outcomes. Their advocacy objective has been focusing on building and strengthening WASH and water resources management coordination lobby groups and collective stakeholder engagement in decision making processes. 

Some of the advocacy milestones that CESPAD has realized include: the development and implementation of water and environment related policies; inclusion of marginalized groups in decision making; and, a strong and active coordination water resources management and WASH lobby groups.


Advocacy and Programmatic Activities: Separate Paths towards a Shared Goal

Sharing about advocacy approaches and activities, Evita Rozenberg from IRC noted that “programmatic and advocacy strategies complement one another and are frequently implemented jointly to achieve sustainable results”. 

“An effective intervention will often be both focused on reducing threats on the ground while working with policymakers to influence government and other institutional bodies to adopt best practices at a larger scale” Evita said. Programmatic and advocacy strategies are separate pathways but can lead to one goal.

The event additionally provided an opportunity for participants to learn about the key steps to designing an effective advocacy strategy while engaging in practical sessions such as messaging and pitching that are key in advocacy.

About World Water Week 

The World Water Week is an annual event organized by Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) since 1991 to address the global water issues and related concerns of international development. The World Water Week 2021 was held from 23-27 August, in entirely digital format. The theme for World Water Week 2021 was ‘Building Resilience Faster’.

WWweek 2021, Photo Credits: CESPAD
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