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Joint Wetlands Livelihoods project

Itad's approach was to catalyse and facilitate improved water governance. We worked at three levels: the whole river basin, the wetlands, and the community.


The north-east of Nigeria is a dry climate and access to water resources is key to survival. Our DFID-funded Joint Wetlands Livelihoods (JWL) project aimed to improve poor people’s livelihoods, particularly those dependent on wetlands.

The project

This project started life as a ‘livelihoods project’. But our diagnosis quickly found the problem was poor water management, particularly in the main rivers. This was due to gaps, overlaps and failures in the way water resources were governed and managed. The project became a water governance project. Partners and stakeholders for this project included the Federal and six State Ministries of Water Resources, of Environment and of Agriculture, as well as two River Basin Development Authorities, a system of traditional rulers (Emirs and Emirates), local government and other community and traditional leaders.

The focus of our work was the Hadejia-Nguru Wetlands, but we operated across the six States in the river basin: Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, and Yobe.

The approach

Our approach was to catalyse and facilitate improved water governance by working with groups of stakeholders. We worked at three levels: the whole river basin (addressing water policy issues), the wetlands (addressing inter-State and water management and water sharing issues), and the community (addressing resource use planning for water use along shared water channels and streams). We supported stakeholders from government, traditional authorities and civil society to form a platform or coalition that focused on their common water management issues. These groups directly intervened to improve water management and/or influenced decision makers to adjust policy and allocate government budget to integrated water resource management (IWRM) activities. The objective was for stakeholders to negotiate a new rules and organisations for river basin management that encompassed inclusive and transparent decision-making processes. The aim was also to improve water management that created new or restored opportunities for productive water use.

Putting the approach into practice

Overall, JWL put DFID’s ‘Drivers of Change’ approach into practice. It was one of the first projects in Nigeria to use the ‘issue-based approach’ to improving governance. It worked with both civil society (the demand side) and government (the supply side) on a shared concern. JWL recognised that improved water management needed to succeed in two areas: (1) creating better rules and (2) the physical capability to manage water according to new rules. We supported the establishment of a multi-community organisation, the Wetlands Development Initiative, to coordinate and conduct water management activities, and six State Integrated Water Resources Management Committees.

Our policy level work successfully supported partners to lobby Nigeria’s government (the Presidency and six State Governors) to invest in better water management in the river basin. During the life of the project, Nigeria committed $15 million to create a Komadugu-Yobe River Basin Trust Fund to fund small-scale water management improvement projects, such as dredging, reed clearance and sluice gates. Our JWL project manager became the Technical Secretary to the Trust Fund at the end of the project.

Project publications and articles relating to Joint Wetlands Livelihoods

  • Institutional Failures in the Management of Critical Water Resources: The Case of the Komadugu-Yobe Basin in Nigeria
Team members