LVBC Staff and Stakeholders planting trees during EAC Celebration, 22nd Novemver 2019, Kisumu, Kenya
As East African Community (EAC) marked their two decades of integration, about 800,000 citizens from five-member states within Lake Victoria Basin can now access clean-drinking water.
The supply of the precious commodity has been implemented through the regional Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Programme and spearheaded by Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) in Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
LVBC Executive Secretary Dr Ally Said Matano says the water supply in 15 towns has benefitted residents of Keroka and Isebania (Kenya) Nansio, Sengereme, Geita (Tanzania) Buwama-Kabwe-Bukakata cluster, Mayuge, Ntungamo (Uganda) Nyanza, Kayonza, Nyagatare (Rwanda) and Muyinga, Ngozi and Kayanza in Burundi. On the other hand, 180,000 regional citizens have been connected to proper sanitation facilities that comprises of public toilets, garbage collections and faecal sludge treatment.
Mr Matano while addressing the media over the weekend as LVBC conducted an EAC Open Day in Kisumu reiterated the commission’s commitment to transform livelihoods through a variety of project interventions.
“Our 2016-2021 Strategic Plan equally puts EAC citizens at the center of regional integration through responsive and result-oriented programmes and projects implemented in different communities,” he said.
He reiterated the unwavering commitment of EAC partner States to move forward together in tandem with their operating aspiration dubbed “One people, One Destiny”. To address poor land practices in Lake Victoria Basin, 18,922 farmers have been trained and adapted sustainable land management practcies in EAC partner States and 800 hectares of land restored. Over 296 industries have adopted resource efficient and cleaner production technologies to curb down industrial and urban pollution. LVBC has also installed 86 sites with modern tools to guide navigability on Lake Victoria as a partial response to incidents and accidents on Lake Victoria.
As the specialized institution of EAC, LVBC has also developed a Regional Water Hyacinth Surveillance and Control Strategy which spells out key techniques such as biological, mechanical removal and small-scale manual removal. Through this initiative, at least 34 sites on Lake Victoria have experienced one of the foregoing techniques.
The commission which joined EAC organs, institutions and apex organizations to celebrate 20th anniversary planted 20 trees to symbolize their 20-year journey held a walk from LVBC Nyanza regional headquarters at Huduma Centre to proposed headquarters. The Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC was signed in Arusha, Tanzania on 30th November, 1999.
The event also enabled EAC citizens to seek information relating to regional integration, LVBC operations, programmes and projects coordinated and implemented in five EAC partner States.
“Noteworthy, opening our office for public access is a corporate tradition and an entrenched practice in LVBC,” said Dr Matano.
EAC Open Day was in line with article 7(a) of the EAC Treaty (1999) EAC Development Strategy (2016/17-2020/21) all emphasizing promoting people-centeredness in regional integration agenda.
Like any other celebration, LVBC staff engaged the public through public engagement through radio talk-show, football and donation of dust-bin collection kits to Victoria Primary School in view of promoting public hygiene. Activities conducted were in line with article 3 of the Protocol for Sustainable Development of Lake Victoria Basin and the overall concept for the EAC 20th Anniversary Observance (2019) of the EAC Secretariat.
Celebrating 20th EAC Anniversary was informed by policy directive of the 28th meeting of the Sectoral Council of Ministers Responsible for EAC Affairs and Planning held on 12th July 2018 in Bujumbura, Burundi. It was in conformity with directive of the 38th Ministerial Council as well as the decision of the EAC Heads of State which underlined 30th November 2019 as the EAC Day.
LVBC has facilitated and coordinated policy-makers from five EAC Partner States to draft Lake Victoria Transport Act (2007), developed the Regional Municipal and Industrial Effluent Standards to guide policy and practices in EAC partner States as well as development of sustainable land management strategy.
The commission has mobilized financial resources worth $700 million from both the development partner and EAC partner States for institutional strengthening, environment management, climate change adaptation, sustainable sanitation, population and health as well as integrated water resources management projects and programs.
The LVBC projects and programs implemented in EAC partner States has made EAC integration more pronounced, visible and felt at strategic and community levels, hence contributing towards people-centred aspiration.
“Given the recent and current weather extremes, adapting to climate change is no longer optional, but conditional for the survival and success of societies, economies of EAC Partner States,” noted Dr Matano.
To address this challenge, LVBC has partnered with UNEP (UN Environment) and secured $5 million from the Adaptation Fund to support the implementation of the Adaptation to Climate Change interventions in the Lake Victoria Basin through a project called Adapting to Climate Change in Lake Victoria Basin Project.
The project was launched in September 2019 and is targeting hotspots in the five riparian EAC Partner States.
EAC and LVBC in particular has acted as a credible strategic forum between various Development Partners and EAC Partner States about long term regional integration (collective visioning) of the future the EAC citizens want.
The successive Annual Mara Day Celebrations, Regional Policy Steering Committee, Stakeholders Development Consultative Forums, Regional Symposia and Scientific Conferences, Sectoral Council of Ministers, Council of Ministers and the apex of all— the Head of States Summit are some of the strategic platforms and forums through which strategic dialogues have been candidly held and policy and strategic directions for EAC region formulated.
LVBC has spearheaded eco-diplomacy resulting into signed several memoranda of Understanding between EAC partner States on management of trans-boundary ecosystems. Example include, but not limited to Chella-Jipe and Umba River Transboundary Ecostem between Tanzania and Kenya, Mara River between Tanzania and Kenya, Mount Elgon between Kenya and Tanzania. Use of strategic eco-diplomacy technique to enhance relations emerged as effective technique for future replications for sustainable management of other complex trans-boundary ecosystems between Rwanda and Burundi.
Looking forward, Dr Matano indicated that Lake Victoria Basin Commission shall continue to promote, facilitate and coordinate projects projects, programmes and policies in key areas such as ecosystems, natural resources and environment. Others include production and income generation; living condition and quality of life; population and demography and policy, institutions and governance.
By addressing these key strategic areas, the Lake Victoria Basin is looking forward to contribute in a big way towards the attainment of sustainable management and development of the shared resources within the basin and therefore regional integration.
“The long-term vision for the Lake Victoria Basin as enshrined in the Vision and Strategy Framework for Management and Development of Lake Victoria Basin is relevant today as was 15 years ago and the next 20 years or more,” said Dr Matano. He pointed out that the over 45 million people in the Lake Victoria Basin envisions “a prosperous population living in a healthy and sustainably managed environment that provides equitable opportunities and benefits”.