When competition gives way to collaboration and cooperation, amazing things can happen. The Lake Victoria Pooptank started off as a competition between 3 regional sanitation innovators; one from Kenya; one from Uganda; and one from Tanzania. Together with the Sanitation Innovation Fund leadership, and the roster of Lakewide Inclusive Sanitation mentors; a team was born! Given that Lake Victoria's challenges are for all of the water in its basin, irrespective of territorial boundaries, our discussion quickly turned to how the competitors could support each other, and the Lakewide sanitation challenge became an exercise in regional collaboration.
Regional collaboration does not just occur because of a shared interest (i.e. the health of Lake Victoria), it requires debate, argument, disagreement, compromise, and empathy. This communication has to happen at all levels between all neighbours, not just at a high level between regional governments in the Lake's basin. The three Pooptank innovators have been having this discussion using the medium of a rolling debate, on our shared Whatsapp group. This blog is the fruit of that debate: the opinions of the innovators as they consider the deep, complex, and sometimes provocative subjects which will need addressing in order to move ahead, faster and more efficiently, with the mission of Lakewide Inclusive Sanitation for Lake Victoria.
We hope you may reflect upon these opinions, and we welcome your engagement should you wish to leave a comment.
Water is water is water, regardless of where the raindrops fall. Lake Victoria's water is managed by its 3 riparian nations of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, as well as Rwanda and Burundi. Its basin is home to over 44 million people, who all depend upon the rains, the soil, and the biodiversity in this huge watershed. The water may be the same, but the people, the cultures, the languages, and the governance, are all hugely varied and complex. In order to reverse the tragic deterioration of Lake Victoria's water quality, these different peoples, and their systems of governance, will need to change in a way which is more in harmony with their nature, and with their Lake.
In your opinion, how important is regional coordination to saving Lake Victoria, and what are some of the big challenges which will hamper the much needed collective action?
Juliet Mukunde of Uganda:
"Regional coordination means assuming collective responsibility for all 5 states of the basin, to save lake Victoria. This allows for the creation and implementation of regional policies, which are effectively the rules of regional coordination. Coordination means greater awareness by more stakeholders due to their increased participation. This builds a stronger "collective voice" which is needed to mobilize the required financial and technical support at the basin level. The concept of sovereignty and the national interests of the 5 states of the basin, are the major challenges faced by regional coordination."
Carolyne Odero of Kenya:
"Regional coordination may sound good, but I highly doubt it would be the game changer because the five countries of the Lake Victoria basin all have different cultures and all value the Lake differently. How fast a state would embrace regional coordination thus depends on how important the lake is to them, or indeed, what they would lose if the Lake died. Kenya, for example, depends on the Lake for much of its economy, e.g. a source of income; a source of food; and tourism. So the Lake contributes greatly to the ministries of Labour, Agriculture and Tourism. This may not be the same in the other countries and as such talks calling for coordination may sound like a quick fix, but wouldn't protect the lake. This is a people's problem and as such, governments of different states should make it their priority to save it with their own different strategies in terms of policy, legislation, regulation and enforcement, with a clear understanding of their respective citizens."
Saul Mwandosya of Tanzania:
"Regional coordination for Lake Victoria is of paramount importance. Governance, regulations and enforcement must be in place and active, across all riparian nations. Importantly, the current needs of the Lake Victoria communities must not be ignored as regional coordination is discussed. The lake basin's rising population search for water, food, and economic security, which drives urbanisation. Uncontrolled urbanisation contributes greatly to the deterioration of the water quality of Lake Victoria, the transmission of sanitation-related diseases, and the loss of biodiversity and recreation amenity. Therefore, we cannot govern our great resource while we each employ different policies, regulations and laws. For example, the land laws and water laws of Tanzania insist dermacation of a 60m protected zone along the Lake shore, as protected public land. But water resources governance differ from Tanzania, to Kenya, to Uganda. Hence the importance of regional coordination bodies, like the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC), who can promote the harmonisation of policies and laws. All riparian nations need joint collaboration for the safe management of Lake Victoria's waters."