Infestation at Sterkloop Weir – Limpopo, South Africa (July 2012)

USAID Program to Upscale Botswana/South Africa Joint Monitoring Water Quality and Hyacinth Initiative to Other Limpopo River Basin Riparian States

By USAID Resilient Waters

In 2010 The Botswana Department of Water and Sanitation discovered water hyacinth in the Limpopo River waterways shared between Botswana and South Africa. Water hyacinth is not just a normal aquatic weed but it is a prohibited, invasive aquatic species. The infestation of water hyacinth in the river system suffocates indigenous aquatic life because it competes for oxygen, mushrooms, ends up blocking and ultimately causes pollution in stagnant water. This presents a major challenge for communities, biodiversity and ecosystems that utilize the waters of the Limpopo.

The Botswana government investigated the extent of the problem and engaged its neighbor, South Africa on the shared problem as guided by the The Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocol on shared watercourses, “Member states shall take all measures necessary to prevent the introduction of alien aquatic species into a shared watercourse system which may have detrimental effects on the ecosystem (SADC Shared Water Protocol).”

Botswana and South Africa, two of the countries which share the Limpopo watercourse had been carrying out separate monitoring exercises on their part of the basin and reported separately on outcomes to the joint permanent technical committee of the two countries. In an attempt to address the shared challenge, the governments of South Africa and Botswana agreed on a joint monitoring program of water quality and water hyacinth, and jointly put in place a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to formalize approaches to addressing the shared challenge. With support from USAID’s Resilience in the Limpopo River Basin (RESILIM) the two countries engaged a facilitated dialogue amongst themselves on the joint challenge.

The USAID RESILIM Program (2012-2017) sought to improve the transboundary water resources management of the Limpopo River Basin with specific focus on increasing the climate resilience of communities and ecosystems. During the implementation of this project, USAID supported a number of joint efforts between the two countries, which eventually resulted in the initiation of a joint water quality survey produced in 2013, which included data collected cooperatively by both countries. Through the USAID facilitated dialogues, the two countries were able to produce a communications strategy, a joint monitoring plan for water quality and water hyacinth control, and an MOU on water quality and water hyacinth management.

Following the RESILIM program’s close in 2017, water quality representatives from Botswana and South Africa governments continued to jointly manage water quality and water hyacinth consistently on a biannual basis during both the wet and dry seasons. This joint monitoring responds to the SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses which calls for the member states to cooperatively monitor shared watercourses and contributes to the sustainability of the initiatives supported by USAID as both countries are still obligated to carry out their mandate. 

However, challenges still remain, the availability of resources, particularly a lack of financial resources to purchase advanced equipment to effectively carry out the joint monitoring exercises, specifically pollution driven waste water facilities of major urban centres in the two countries. “Commitment to our mandate is key and we can take care of our water resources with adequate budget support and research skills,” said Kene Dick, Principal Water Chemist Water Conservation & Quality at the Department of Water and Sanitation Botswana.

USAID’s Resilient Waters Program is building upon lessons learnt from RESILIM and other similar USAID projects and will be plugging them into ongoing activities in order to scale them up where possible. The new USAID program aims to improve trans-boundary water security and resource management by building capacity for the integration of sound water and natural resource management practices and adaptation strategies into policy, planning and management by Southern African regional, national, and local governments. Botswana and South Africa are only two of the countries which share the Limpopo watercourse. Resilient Waters plans to introduce the shared watercourse monitoring initiative to Mozambique and Zimbabwe which are the two remaining riparian states of Limpopo shared watercourse.

Resilient Waters
Strategic Objective
Biodiversity Conservation, Water and Sanitation, Water Management

USAID Resilient Waters

USAID Resilient Waters is a five-year, $32 million project implemented by Chemonics International. Its goal is to build more resilient and water secure Southern African communities and ecosystems through improved management of trans-boundary natural resources and increased access to safe drinking water and sanitation services.

Related Resources

View All Resources about
Climate Risk Profile

Climate Risk Profile: Ethiopia

More on the Blog

More and more countries like Nepal are using satellite technology to address this challenge and create their own land monitoring systems.
Measuring adaptation is not easy, and there is no “one size fits all” approach.
SERVIR Southeast Asia convened nearly 100 participants from five countries for an Inclusive Climate Action Workshop in Chiang Mai, Thailand this February.
Four women sitting on a table and watching a speaker