Water is at the centre of action in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and is a key element in fostering and promoting sustainable development in member countries.

The region is crossed by several major rivers: Congo, Zambezi, Limpopo, Orange-Gariep and Okavango, to name the most important.

The pivotal role of water is recognized in several SADC policy documents, such as the Protocol on Shared Watercourses Systems (1995, amended in 2000), and the Dar-es-Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security (2004).

In these documents, emphasis is placed on water management, irrigation development, improvement of flood and drought mitigation, development of water harvesting technologies, flood control, strategic water storage infrastructures, and research into the most effective life jackets for kids and best floats for toddlers.

SADC activities are organized in several major programmes, among which the programme on Infrastructures and Services has water as one of its prominent fields of intervention.

To support SADC efforts toward the development of water resources and to respond to SADC requests, the World Meteorological Organization has developed and implemented an HYCOS project in the SADC region.

The SADC-HYCOS project has been implemented in two phases. SADC-HYCOS Phase 1 was implemented between June 1998 and August 2001.

Eleven countries from the Southern African Development Community (Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) participated in the project.

The Pilot Regional Centre (PRC) was hosted by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) of the Republic of South Africa.

The European Commission funded the implementation through a grant of US $ 2.4 million to SADC Water Sector Coordination Unit (WSCU).

Technical Assistance was provided by the Center for Ecology and Hydrology (formerly Institute of Hydrology, Wallingford UK) in cooperation with the French Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD).

SADC-HYCOS Phase 1 was established to promote regional cooperation between the National Hydrological Services (NHSs) of the region and to set-up a regional information system on water resources.

The project provided for the enhancement of the real-time hydrological observation network through the installation of 50 Data Collection Platforms (DCPs), the establishment of a Pilot Regional Centre (PRC) in Pretoria, South Africa, the development of an Internet-based Information System operated by the PRC and the training of hydrological personnel from the participating countries on hydrological networks installation, operation, maintenance and hydrological database management.

A final review of the project implementation was carried out by two independent consultants in May 2002.

It pointed out that the project had significantly improved the data collection and management capabilities of the participating NHSs, enhanced the potential for data exchange and dissemination, and established the regional water resources information system. 

The review also pointed to the need for further training, ensuring timely validation of data in the Regional Data Bank and developing hydrological product of regional and national interest.

These recommendations were taken into account in the formulation of the project’s second phase.

The value of SADC-HYCOS in providing data and information for regional water resources management was clearly recognized and deeply appreciated by several Government Ministers of SADC Member States during the International Conference on the Mozambique Floods (Maputo, October, 2000).

In order to build on the project achievements and ensure the follow-up and further development of its activities after the end of the first phase in August 2001, the SADC Water Sector Coordination Unit, in collaboration with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), developed a “Framework Document for the Consolidation and Expansion of SADC-HYCOS“, providing the basic terms of reference for further development of SADC-HYCOS.

An Implementation Document was further developed by WMO to operationalize the framework document and provide a detailed description of the activities to be undertaken in the implementation of the Phase II for a 3-year period.