The Horn of Africa is beset by increasing intensity and frequency of drought, causing local communities to regularly migrate within and across borders to locate water sources. CIWA is at the forefront of work to improve the Horn’s use of groundwater and is providing leadership for regional groundwater knowledge and planning and institutional resilience to shocks from climate change. It also supported Somalia with capacity-strengthening efforts through transboundary dialogue, trust-building, and information exchange.

Strategic Support



Thirty percent of the population in the Horn of Africa (HoA) live on arid and semi-arid lands. Groundwater is the Horn’s main water resource and has the greatest potential for providing water security and socio-economic benefits. The region faces increasingly longer dry periods, catastrophic and intense drought, and increasing variation in the length of the rainy season.

  • Year started: 2019
  • Status: Closed
  • Key Partner/s: Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), covering Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda

Objective and Elements

The HoA Regional Groundwater Initiative is strengthening regional cooperation and capacities in groundwater development and management and expanding the knowledge base on groundwater resources. The project successfully increased knowledge about groundwater, including a determination of surface water availability, water variability, and natural recharge of shallow groundwater and assessed the feasibility of potential investments. 

New Study to Examine Fragility and Water Cooperation at the Local Level in the Horn of Africa 

People living in the Horn of Africa continue to be exposed to numerous complex challenges. Climate change and regional conflicts complicate the region’s ability to attain water security and governance. To better understand the multidimensional challenges in achieving water cooperation at the local level, CIWA has commissioned a study for the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) to examine the intersections between fragility and transboundary water cooperation at the local level. And to decide on which transboundary water sources the study will focus, SIPRI and CIWA conducted a two-hour virtual workshop on September 2, 2021, to present six potential communities and transboundary water sources. Workshop participants featured SIPRI representatives; World Bank water specialists; agriculture specialists; and fragility, conflict, and violence experts. 

Upon analyzing the six options and considering the workshop participants’ inputs, the decision was made for the study to focus on communities living in proximity to these transboundary water sources: 

  • The Sio-Malaba-Malakisi river basin (Nile sub-basin) shared by Kenya and Uganda
  • The Dawa river (the Juba-Shabelle river basin) and the Dawa aquifer basin shared by Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia 
  • The Bahr el Ghazal (Nile sub-basin) and the Baggara Basin aquifer shared by South Sudan and Sudan

Dr. Kyungmee Kim, Researcher with SIPRI, lead the research together with SIPRI colleagues Emilie Broek, Elizabeth Smith, and David Michel. The final report has been published in November 2021. 

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Continual reform implementation enabled Somalia to reach the first milestone in obtaining debt relief and fully re-engage with the international community in March 2020. However, an incomplete political settlement and vulnerability to shocks such as climate disasters, locust infestations, and floods are jeopardizing the country’s recovery. Somalia has the longest coastline on Africa’s mainland and a population of 15 million people. Approximately 60 percent of Somalia’s land is arid or semi-arid, with uneven and irregular availability of water resources. The Shebelle and Jubba rivers are essential sources of water for people, livestock, and irrigation.

  • Year started: 2018
  • Status: Closed
  • Key Partner/s: Government of Somalia

Objective and Elements

The Somalia technical cooperation, which ended in 2021, supported the country’s requested capacity-strengthening efforts through transboundary dialogue, trust-building, and information exchange to articulate water resources development options for the Juba and Shebelle basins, structure its transboundary agenda, and pursue dialogue. It supported water resource model preparation training, development of the Somalia National Water Strategy, and expansion of stream flow and regional cloud-based data.

CIWA helped Somalia develop a framework to illustrate and discuss key sector issues and priorities with its development partners and empowered Somali water experts to express their priorities in a context where agenda-setting and implementation have typically resided with international agencies and NGOs.

CIWA supported the development of a Water Resources Model to build the capacity of water sector institutions and train selected hydrogeologists on water resources modelling. CIWA has trained a dozen Somalian hydrologists on the streamflow model for the Shebelle and Juba rivers to help visualize the fluctuation of flow through time.

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