Authored by Brad Czerniak

Water management needs in the Great Lakes region of Africa are critical, with inadequate institutions, policies and implementation capacity for effective watershed management. As part of a larger Regional Dialogue to Improve Transboundary Water Resources Governance in Africa, United Nations University - Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH) undertook a comparative study of management approaches by lake commissions in the African Great Lakes and Laurentian Great Lakes in North America. The Lake Twinning initiative revolves around the concept of sharing experiences between the lake governance commissions for the African and Laurentian Great Lakes. This joint collaboration has directly engaged fve key lake commissions the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC), the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFU), the International Joint Commission (IJC), the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) and the Lake Tanganyka Authority (LTA) and many national and international partners. Multi-stakeholder policy dialogues in Entebbe (Uganda) and Niagara Falls (Canada) have clearly demonstrated that such sharing can bring about signifcant improvements in management of these large lake systems. Such cooperation is directly linked to sustainable livelihoods for all, reduction of poverty in the riparian countries in Africa, and rich and robust ecosystems. The Lake Twinning project aimed to:

  • Facilitate policy, legal and institutional reform for transboundary waters management (quantity and quality) through comparative analysis
  • Enhance regional and national knowledge and capacity for the management and planning of shared water resource systems
  • Strengthen planning processes in shared water resources management, facilitating self-sustaining regional water institutions in Africa.

The twinning of lake-governance systems offers unconventional learning opportunities. It allows twinned organizations to learn from each other's mistakes and use that information to explain to stakeholders why a management practice should not be tried. Similarly, they can learn from successes and use these to good advantage. Importantly, the notion of twinning fosters collaboration and information sharing among a wide range of professionals and stakeholders about science and management. Such cross-fertilization of ideas provides decision-makers a stronger base for sound political decisions.