Rome (epo). - The ten countries within the Nile River basin will benefit from better access to information on the availability, use and development potential of the Nile resources they share, thanks to a new project aimed at improving water resource management in the region, FAO announced today. The US$5 million project, funded by the Government of Italy, will be implemented by participating country governments with assistance from FAO. The project will be carried out under the umbrella of the Nile Basin Initiative, a regional partnership launched by the Nile riparian states in 1999 to facilitate the common pursuit of sustainable development and management of the Nile's waters.

"The Nile waters bear tremendous potential as a lever for social and economic development, but at the moment, the inability to jointly plan water development, reach agreement on equitable sharing of benefits and attract investment has delayed the use of this resource for the benefit of the people living in the Nile basin region," said Pasquale Steduto, Chief of FAO's Water Resources, Development and Management Service.

With an average per capita gross domestic product of US$400, far below the African average, the ten countries that share the Nile -- Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda -- can ill afford further delays in making the most of this important resource.

The project will support basin-wide initiatives to integrate technical water resource and water use data with demographic, socio-economic and environmental information to examine how specific policies and projected water use patterns will affect water resources in the Nile riparian countries.

The project will develop surveys and case studies that shed light on the links between water management practices and rural livelihoods and food insecurity. Within this context, a basin-wide survey will be conducted to assess current and potential water use and water productivity in rainfed and irrigated agriculture. A further case study concerns the analysis and improvement of water productivity through crop management.

In implementing these activities, the project will make use of regional expertise and will provide training, where necessary, to ensure that capable and experienced local human resources are available for future work in the region. It will also draw on FAO's expertise in agricultural water use, water productivity and rural livelihoods.

The initiative builds on the work of two previous projects funded by the Italian Cooperation Programme, which since 1996 has directed US$16 million towards improving water management in the Nile basin, an area of approximately 3.1 million square kilometres, or around 10 percent of the African continent.

This earlier work has already produced tangible achievements, including the establishment of a transboundary hydro-meteorological monitoring network and national georeferenced databases containing hydro-meteorological and water use data, as well as information on land use, land cover and soil type. A common water resources assessment tool has also been designed for use by all Nile basin states in assessing the trade-offs and consequences of various policy decisions, and training in legal and institutional aspects of water resources management has been conducted.


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