Water & Climate Resilience in the Limpopo Basin

The Limpopo River Basin (LRB) is transboundary, spanning Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It is also one of the most stressed river basins in sub-Saharan Africa. Current demand on this water resource is increasing rapidly, while climate change is likely to see widespread temperature escalations and declines in rainfall in some areas. The LRB is also known for its wide diversity of landscapes, rich biodiversity and people. In recognition of these challenges, the USAID southern Africa‐funded Resilience in the Limpopo Basin (RESILIM) program, which commenced operation in June 2012, has at its core the improvement of the basin’s ecosystems and the resilience of livelihoods. The RESILIM strategy integrates water management, biodiversity conservation and adaptations to climate change, with a view to building resilience for the long term sustainability of the LRB. Improving the basin’s resilience requires evidence and action – both of which are supported by the RESILIM program.

OneWorld, a core consortium member of the RESILIM Program implementation team, has led the work done in building the evidence base for building resilience in the basin. A desk-top review provided insight into the status quo of the basin – its water users, development prospects, governance and institutions, as well as risks and vulnerabilities. Risk and Vulnerability (R&V) mapping, using geographical information systems (GIS) formed a spatial picture of climate risk and vulnerability of the area. The expert review of these findings provided critical in-depth insights into this highly vulnerable region, complemented by stakeholder consultation and participatory analysis across the basin. Through the combined process of R&V mapping and expert consultation, eight case studies (or ‘hotspots’) emerged as areas of heightened vulnerability. These case studies were used as a means of understanding more localised vulnerabilities across the LRB, as well as ways in which basin-wide resilience could be built through replication and scale.

The second component of RESILIM work undertaken by OneWorld has been a communications and training strategy, focused mainly on improving transboundary river management and supporting the development goals of the Limpopo Watercourse Commission (LIMCOM) and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). A high-impact Investment Strategy, guided by the basin’s current vulnerabilities and development futures, is thus a key resilience-building deliverable under the program.