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Moustapha CONGO

Permanent Secretary of the Action Plan for Integrated Water Resources Management - Ministry of Water and Sanitation - Burkina-Faso

In what way INBO is an important network for sharing knowledge and experiences, both on the African and global scale?


As you say, it is an international network that brings together the different basin organizations from different countries. It is a network that brings together people who have had both positive and negative experiences.

These experiences are mainly positive, and they can facilitate the accession of other countries at certain stages not yet reached.

Negative experiences help to learn lessons and prevent people and countries from leaving in the same direction as others have failed. This is important, especially for African countries where, generally, there is no own expertise and experience.

Most water resource management systems are systems that started in Europe, and on which African countries, notably Burkina Faso, have relied to set up their own integrated water resource management (IWRM) structure.
Thus INBO is an organization that allows, thanks to its configuration, to "boost" water resource management at the level of African countries, through the expertise it can bring, through the information that the network can have on the problems and the various developments of water resource management, including the search for financing. These elements are really positive for our country.

What are the main challenges of water management in Burkina Faso?


The challenges of water resource management are multiple. Burkina is a country where water resources are scarce, and this is aggravated by climate change, which has led to a decrease in rainfall, which has become scarce and widely spaced.

Another consequence is that evaporation has reached 2 metres per year. due to the geological context of the country (80% crystalline and 20% sedimentary), underground resources are scarce and we are obliged to build mobilization structures. However, very deep mobilization structures cannot be built, and shallow structures quickly lose large volumes of water due to evaporation.

Another problem is the population, which has more or less doubled or tripled over the past 10 years.

There is also economic development, industries, mining, and even the way agriculture is done, which has become a major water user.

This creates conflicts between users, for industry, mining, agriculture, livestock and even drinking water.

These are major issues that we face.

Another issue that has arisen is that agriculture, which has become too water-intensive, and uses products such as pesticides, resulting in more or less widespread diffuse pollution of surface water and surface and groundwater.

There is also an issue related to waste collection and sanitation. This is a public health problem, with the risk of transmission of a number of diseases from humans to plants and from plants to the general population. So the challenge of controlling sanitation is important.

Currently, we have a lot of industrial pollution, particularly related to gold panning: we have at least 600 gold panning sites spread all over the country. At all these sites, people use chemicals, and ignore their dangerousness, and it is widespread pollution that can reach other countries.

Why and how has Burkina Faso implemented IWRM at the national level ?


At the international level, with the various Conventions, Burkina Faso has set up the IWRM process.

Since the 1970s, with the major droughts, Burkina Faso has suffered a shock in terms of drinking water supply, with population displacements and animal deaths, and this has been an awakening for the leaders.

A strategy had to be developed to mobilize water resources. So, in the 1980s, a number of mobilization structures were set up to ensure water supply, not only for the population but also for livestock.

But we saw that this policy was not well defined. In the 1990s, Burkina Faso began to move towards the development of a strategic water policy, and Burkina Faso was one of the first countries in West Africa to adopt IWRM, with the Ouagadougou conference in 1998.

The Water Management Act, in 2001, made it possible to take stock of the situation, followed by the first IWRM plan, which was developed and implemented from 2003 to 2009. This plan has made it possible to develop a set of tools at the Institutional level and at the Legal level.

On the legal level, there has been the law and its implementing decree (more than 30 implementing decrees) which have been drafted. At the institutional level, structures have been set up at the national level with all the actors, namely the Administration, the Collectivities, civil society, even the customary and scientific communities, and all the Ministries.

All projects that are now implemented in Burkina Faso must obtain the opinion of the National Water Council before going to the Council of Ministers, as well as all stakeholders must be informed and give their opinion before it is validated.

Burkina has 4 basins which have been subdivided into 5 administrative basins, taking into account a number of sociological criteria, each with a water agency, which is now operational.

These are the Nakanbé (NEA), Mouhoun (AEM), Cascades (AEC), Gourma (AEG) and Liptako (AEL) Water Agencies.

At the local level, the same structure as that used by the National Water Council has been put in place: local water committees have been set up at the sub-basin level, as in France with the Local Water Commission, which brings together all users, with local authorities and the State. They meet, not only to resolve conflicts of use, but also to raise awareness among stakeholders and define priorities, based on the problems in the basin, which are the axes necessary to curb the impacts of climate change on water resources, for example.

At the national level, we have nearly 46 local water committees, set up as a priority in basins where there were many problems of conflicts of use. I am used to saying that "it works", even if others say the opposite: before, conflicts of use between market gardeners were resolved with a machete; now they are discussing at the water committee level! This is a great achievement.

On the funding side, it was felt that it was necessary to find endogenous resources capable of supporting IWRM, to ensure that agencies could be financially autonomous. Even if we are asking for external resources, it is not to make the agencies work, but to take concrete action on the ground.

A financial contribution was made to the water sector, consisting of three components:

- a tax on the levy-payer, a tax on the polluter-payer, and a tax on the modification of the water regime.

Currently, the sampler-pays component is operational, but only for the major polluters, namely industrialists and miners, who pay a fee of 125 francs per cubic metre of water, the construction industry, which pays 10 francs per cubic metre for the backfill completed and 20 francs per cubic metre of concrete completed, in relation to the water content, which corresponds to 150 francs per cubic metre of water.

And there are the producers of drinking water who are at 50 francs per cubic metre of water withdrawn. The National Office for Water and Sanitation (ONEA), which has a social character, pays 1 franc per cubic metre of water.

The balance sheet is mixed: we manage to have about 500 million francs, while the potential is 2.3 billion, but it is already an asset.

At the level of the 5 Agencies, 2 Agencies can ensure their self-financing in terms of operation. The objective is that by 2025-2030 at the latest, the 5 Agencies will be autonomous.

We have also set up a water police because we have realized that the texts exist, but their application in the field is problematic. Therefore, it was necessary to find a mechanism to enforce the texts. This water police service plays a coordinating role: indeed, there were services that were there, with already a regalian character of water police, including water and forests, the gendarmerie, the police and sanitation officers.

All that has been done is to swear in agents of the Ministry of Water, who therefore ensure coordination of actions. When they go out in the field, they go out with these structures.

In the upper basins, they drive people to the banks, they control drinking water producers to ensure that they respect water quality....

They do not only repress, they also inform and raise awareness.

It is interesting to note that, each time, the actions that are undertaken are in the sense that there is acceptance by the persons concerned. In the case of royalties, you didn't go "ball in mind if I may say" on "everyone will pay the royalty" since you know that not everyone can pay. So you went to the industrialists... And for the water police it's the same thing: there's not a minister who said, "That's it, we're eliminating everything, and we're building a water police service". You said "we keep what already exists, and we try to coordinate all this as best we can, which allows those who already police water to accept this reform.

Other users, such as market gardeners and agriculture, are being sensitized. The objective is to make it clear that water is not free, even if it is a symbolic franc. They must also see that the financial contribution of water is used for what it is used for. We are at the study and consultation stage.

It is also necessary to adopt the other components, such as the polluter-pays component.

What are the concrete positive results already obtained? volumes of water consumed, water quality, pitfalls encountered?

We're at the beginning, it's slow, it's progressive. Our objective is not money, it is water savings, to enable all users to have water. The principle is to save water, to reuse water, to encourage people like miners to recirculate water, to use technologies that consume less water, and that everyone takes just what they want.

What are the concrete positive results already obtained? volumes of water consumed, water quality, pitfalls encountered?

We're at the beginning, it's slow, it's progressive. Our objective is not money, it is water savings, to enable all users to have water.
The principle is to save water, to reuse water, to encourage people like miners to recirculate water, to use technologies that consume less water, and that everyone takes just what they want.

How did you manage to develop user participation in this whole process ?

For the participation of users, we have the "chance" in Burkina Faso that people are experiencing the reality of climate change. They want solutions. When we talk about setting up a local water committee, people say that 10 years ago that is what it was, and now that is what it is. If the trend continues, in 10 years they will disappear. These findings are the lever we used to encourage this participation.

In terms of drinking water supply, they had wells that are currently these wells are dry, and new wells are not 4-5 years old, compared to 10 previously. Everywhere there was vegetation, now it has disappeared. They themselves want solutions to problems.

What are Burkina Faso's priority actions in IWRM for the coming months and years?


We have already adopted a "IWRM 2016-2030" program, and in 2019, we are in the 3rd generation. I mentioned the 1st, the 2nd generation is the one that allowed us to set up the structures and start being operational.

The 3rd generation, which will be completed next year, is the development of instruments, such as water management master plans, and then the multi-year programmes of the various agencies. There are 2 agencies that already have their master development plan, and 1 that is being finalized and 2 others that are under development.

The objective of the 3rd generation of the action plan is that all these instruments should be operational, that as many people as possible should be able to pay, and that concrete actions to protect and restore water resources should be put in the field for users to see.

For the water police to be operational in order to effectively limit pollution, and this is the major challenge, we must rely on communication, awareness and advocacy. This is permanent: people must be able to understand the issues at stake.

We have a positive experience. We are lucky that every year there is the National Farmers' Day, where, before, no one talked about water problems. Currently, there is not a single National Farmers' Day where farmers do not directly question the President about the filling in of watercourses and their silting up. That means that a certain communication has appeared, and we must continue with that communication so that it can affect the conscience of the population. We really need to get buy-in that will get things moving quickly.

In addition, given the problem of lack of water resources, people must have access to water-saving technologies. So we need training, awareness and capacity building to ensure that there are adaptation and mitigation actions in the face of climate change, to enable people to produce with the minimum amount of water.

You are members of the Niger Basin Authority (NBA), and part of your territory is included in the territory of the NBA. In all this process that you have described (IWRM, the establishment of Basin Organizations, Agencies), has NBA helped you, or has it been a brake, or neither of you, there has been no problem but not especially a help from NBA?

The process was really very national, the NBA had actions in the portions that are on the territory but is not a direct link with the NBA program.

You were a bit of a precursor to the NBA program...


There must be synergy between what is happening at the NBA and the national portions. But the problem is that the organization is not the same. It may come with time. In Burkina Faso, we have the Libtaco water agency, which will have a water management master plan, and the Gourma agency, which already has one. This means that NBA actions should be in compliance.
But it was the opposite. Agencies need to be able to participate at the NBA level, not only to describe their programme, but also to see if there are possible synergies. This is the work of NBA at the National level. Unfortunately, not all other countries are structured in terms of an Agency.
Within the NBA, countries are represented by national focal points, which are the water directorates-general, which means that the agency is set aside. The NBA sends to the focal points, which causes difficulties.

If there is no agency in a country because there is a focal point in your country but then there are all the agencies...


Intelligence should be at the Burkina level: agencies should be involved in the NBA focal point. The presence of the agencies is not yet well integrated.


Could you describe the main lines of work carried out with IOWater and the French Water Agencies for all aspects of IWRM and the actions you have developed?

We started with the Adour-Garonne Water Agency, which supported the establishment and signing of the agreement of the Mouhoun and Nakambé water agencies. This was initiated because there was a western water resources program where a master plan for the water management perimeter was being developed.

The Adour-Garonne water agency said: "We cannot make a diagram without an agency" and they effectively supported the emergence of these two agencies.

The Loire-Brittany Water Agency also supported the development of the Nakambé Agency.

Then, IOWater came to be the interface between the French Water Agencies and the local Water Agencies.

On-site training was provided to learn how an Agency and its structures work, such as the basin committee. Whether at the administrative or community level, we had on-site internships to understand the operating mechanisms.

This has allowed us to strengthen our capacities.

And for these trainings, was IOWater involved? In what way is IOWater a reference organization in terms of training?

Agents went for training in France, at IOWater; similarly, specialists came to Burkina Faso to exchange with agencies and improve taxation. All this to enable the Burkinabe agencies to improve their technical and economic skills.

We might have given up along the way without the support given by IOWater and the French Water Agencies; we have benefited from their 40 years of experience, to build a water policy, and this has allowed us to reach the level we are currently at.

Moustapha CONGO

Interview conducted during INBO's 11th World General Assembly - From 30 September to 03 October 2019 in Marrakech (Morocco) - © RIOB 2019