Often decision makers in both developed and developing countries make resolutions without considering the risks which may come with certain investments and interventions. It happens that investments and interventions fail to meet their objectives because careful risk analysis was not done in the preparatory work. This is also true for groundwater development projects in the African drylands. A broader, more inclusive socio-hydrological approach is needed in many of these cases which will allow to better measure the impact of projects.
In 2012, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) started an initiative to develop approaches which measure uncertainties around risky investments and interventions in the global South. This approach provides a tool which allows for any factor which is deemed important in the impact pathway to be considered, no matter how uncertain or difficult to measure it may be. The Assessing Risk of Investment in Groundwater Resources in sub-Saharan Africa (ARIGA) Project aims to find a more holistic way of assessing risks around the development of groundwater resources. The Habaswein-Wajir Water Supply Project was taken as a case study to measure the value of taking such an approach.
In recent years, an increase in the population of Wajir, a big town in Northern Kenya, has put great pressure on the supply of clean drinking water for the town. To ensure that Wajir will have a reliable supply of fresh water, plans have been made to construct a 110 kilometre water pipeline between Habaswein and Wajir. Since Habaswein has a better water supply than Wajir, the Kenyan government and the Dutch donor ORIO have said to be prepared to finance this project. Nevertheless, in the preparatory phase, it became clear that not all stakeholders were in favour of the Wajir urban water supply project and that all relevant costs, benefits and risks had not been sufficiently assessed
The Project looks at the hydrological, social and financial risks involved in the Habaswein-Wajir Water Supply Project. Through engagement with different stakeholders in workshops, meetings in smaller groups and by models that were designed by hydrologists, decision analysts as well as social surveys carried out in the local population, the various hydrological, social and financial risks have been accounted for.
The research revealed the following findings. First, the risk of water turning saline when drilling boreholes in Habaswein, is related to uncertainty of the thickness of the freshwater layer and depth of the salt water interface. This uncertainty could be resolved when drilling a deep borehole to localize the depth of salt water. Second, the research revealed a significant risk of negative return on investment for all stakeholders including the water company supposed to deliver the water. It is advised to perform proper financial risk assessment.
Third, stakeholders who had strongly opposed opinions on desirability of the project, appreciated the opportunity for a dialogue between proponents and opponents of the project. Fourth, opponents indicated that lack of communication and information was a major reason for their position and indicated that better information might assist them to reconsider their opinion. Finally, the information provided by research has changed the opinion of various stakeholders who now recognize the various risks surrounding the project. Finally, all stakeholders expressed appreciation for having a group of impartial researchers to advise them on the risks of this project.
UPGro (2016) UPGro Catalyst Projects: Synthesis and individual project summaries. June 2016. www.rural-watersupply.net/en/resources-top/details/658