Together with IHE Delft and the Institut National de l’Eau (INE) from Benin, IGRAC organised a tailor-made training on groundwater governance in Cotonou, Benin from 9 to 13 October. The over-arching training objective was to learn how groundwater governance can contribute to sustainable groundwater management and how this may secure Benin’s livelihoods under climate change and rising competing demands. The training was funded by the Netherlands Fellowship Programmes (NFP) of Nuffic.
The training course was attended by a varied group of about 30 people from different organisations: Fifteen MSc students from INE, three PhD fellows associated with the NOEVA project and several professionals from the Direction Général de l’Eau (DG Eau) of the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water and the Société Nationale des Eaux du Bénin (SONEB). The learning objectives for this 5 days tailor made training were to:
- Understand consequences of groundwater use for all stakeholders, including farmers and communities, and understand the range of instruments available to obtain sustainable and equitable groundwater use;
- Analyse groundwater monitoring data using mainstream Open Source GIS software in education and administrations of the government;
- Translate (technical) groundwater monitoring data to policy relevant messages;
- Apply tools that can be used for policy development to sustainable manage groundwater use; and
- Transfer this knowledge to stakeholders of all levels in the water sector in Benin.
Sustainable groundwater use, monitoring and data management
After the official opening and a warm welcome by Mr. Nicaise Yalo on behalf of INE, the programme started with an introduction on the hydrogeology of Benin by Mr Yalo, followed by an introduction with discussions on groundwater governance by Mr. Geert-Jan Nijsten (IGRAC). In the afternoon participants joined a session of the Groundwater Serious Game led by Nienke Ansems (IGRAC) and Geert-Jan Nijsten. In this highly interactive game, participants learned about issues of groundwater management under different governance scenario’s and how different instruments (regulatory and financial) can assist in reaching more sustainable and equitable groundwater use.
Day two was all about groundwater monitoring, data infrastructure and GIS. Lectures on types and design of monitoring network as well as data quality aspects, where followed by presentations on existing the national integrated database of Benin and on-line data and information systems. In the afternoon, the focus was on the use of on-line data and information management systems and practical hands-on sessions in which participants learned how to use open source GIS software (QGIS) in combination with available online systems like the Système National d'Information sur l'Eau (SNIEAU).
Field visits and geological excursion
The third and fourth day consisted of field visits and excursions organised by INE. At location, at the wellfields of Godomey and Ouèdo, issues related to groundwater management and monitoring were discussed, and participants were exposed to the ongoing monitoring program and some aspects of field research related to the NOEVA project. The first day of field work ended with a visit to the water bottling and beverages company Usine de Possotomé.
The next day’s field trip focussed on the hydrogeology of the Southern part of Benin with visits to outcrops of the important coastal sedimentary aquifer and the more northern basement area, with its specific groundwater manag ement challenges. Here the participants gained practical experience with some field equipment and measurements. Thanks to the great enthusiasm and motivation of participants, some of the bus journeys in between excursion point were used for further group discussions and ad-hoc lectures related to groundwater monitoring and groundwater governance.
Day five focussed on groundwater governance again, building on the introductions and examples from previous days. The first lecture covered groundwater governance aspects from a regulatory perspective with examples and discussions on available instruments. This session was followed by group work in which participants had to discuss applicability of instruments for existing groundwater issues in Benin. At the end of the morning three PhD fellows who are also conducting the NOEVA project on groundwater management of the coastal aquifer presented their work.
The afternoon session focused on stakeholder engagement. After communication and visualisation tools for stakeholder engagement were explained, participants were divided in groups and given a stakeholder mapping assignment in which they had to identify stakeholders, relevant actors, users and institutes.
The successful training week with a lot of active engagement from enthusiastic participants was concluded with a small social gathering and a drink. Evaluation of the training indicated that participants were positive about the highly interactive course in which they gained a better understanding of different aspects of groundwater comments. It was suggested that the was enough material for a two-week training course, as well as suggestion for a training dedicated to the interpretation of monitoring data.