GEF Project to Enhance Regional Water Management

April 22, 2024

The proposal follows an extensive consultation process among stakeholders across development agencies, policymakers, communities and civil society organizations.

UNDP/Mantoe Phakathi

In May, member states will submit a proposal to strengthen integrated transboundary management of water resources across Eswatini, Mozambique and South Africa to the Global Environment Facility (GEF). This follows a review of the proposal by key players of the shared Incomati and Maputo River Basins on April 18, at a seminar held in Nelspruit, South Africa. GEF is expected to adopt the proposal in December.

Supported by UNDP and the Global Water Partnership, the proposal was developed by experts from the three countries following extensive consultations with policymakers, development agencies, communities, water management institutions and civil society organizations. This proposal is in response to an observed increase in droughts, floods, strong winds and fire weather conditions on both basins by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The erratic weather patterns have affected water flow across the two basins where agriculture is the predominant economic activity and includes large-scale irrigated and rain-fed commercial operations and subsistence farming. 

Commercial tree plantations and sugarcane farming are the two dominant agricultural activities in the basin in terms of water and land use. Sugarcane production in the Incomati basin captures as much as 67% of all water used for irrigation and provides direct employment to more than 30,000 people. Therefore, to ensure cooperation on the shared resource across the three countries and the sustainability of the economic and subsistence farming, the three governments have proposed the “Strengthening integrated transboundary management of the Incomati and Maputo River basins” project.     

The proposed six-year initiative promises to overhaul water resource management along the Incomati and Maputo River Basins across three countries by:

  • Strengthening regional governance frameworks for transboundary basin management, including applying a source-to-sea management approach. 

  • Facilitating a knowledge-based approach for source-to-sea management.

  • Supporting basin-wide and coastal zone strategic planning and investment mobilisation.

  • Creating sustainable livelihoods through enhancing water, food, energy and environmental security.

UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Nessie Golakai-Gould, and INMACOM Interim Executive Secretary Edward Mswane.


UNDP is the implementing agency while GWP Southern Africa is the project executing partner. Both agencies are supporting the Incomati and Maputo Watercourse Commission (INMACOM), an organization formed by the three member states to promote cooperation to ensure coordinated development, management and sustainable use of the water resource. Based in Eswatini’s capital city, Mbabane, INMACOM was launched in November 2021. 

Addressing the stakeholders and partners at the seminar, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Nessie Golakai-Gould, expressed her gratitude to the three governments for trusting UNDP to support them to mobilise for resources under this project. She added that the successful implementation of the proposed project could yield long-term environmental, economic, and social benefits from the improved management of water resources and ecosystems. 

“This project has the potential of enhancing water security, food security, energy security, and environmental security in the region,” she said. 

She urged all stakeholders to consider how they can contribute financially or in-kind to the project adding that such support could not only result in stronger project results but may also build stronger cross-border and inter-sectoral relationships.

“Co-financing is not just a financial requirement but a critical component of shared ownership and commitment to the project’s success. It ensures that the project is adequately resourced and can achieve its objectives without financial strain on any single entity,” said Golakai-Gould.

Stakeholders who met in Nelspruit to review the proposal before submission to the Global Environment Facility.