Access to water

Ensuring access to safe and clean water for communities in the Lake Chad basin

11/10/2019 - 

Over the last 60 years, the surface area of Lake Chad in the North East region of Nigeria has decreased by 90 percent, a result of overuse of water, extended drought and the impacts of climate change. The shrinking lake has threatened the resources and livelihoods of people who depend on fishing and irrigation-based agricultural activities. Beginning in 2009, the Boko Haram insurgency further exacerbated the destructive impact of this ecological catastrophe.



In collaboration with: Eni, an integrated energy company engaged in the research, production, transportation, processingand marketing of oil and natural gasas well as power generation (including from renewable sources) and power distribution

Timeframe: 2018-2021

Benefitting: Over 1 million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and members of host communities 

Geographic coverage: Nigeria

Contributing to: 




Both the conflict and the environmental degradation of the area have significantly affected the economic productivity of the North East region, which is largely based on farming, pastoralism and fishing. The main impacts of the conflict include inaccessibility and loss of productive assets and inputs due to displacement and destruction, and the disruption of markets. As of December 2018, more than 2.2 million people had been displaced from their communities of origin (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre). The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 7.1 million people in the region are in need of humanitarian assistance. While some people have managed to preserve or regain livelihoods in areas that have returned to government control, displaced populations have been unable to resume productive activity and are thus the most affected. As a result of the influx of internally displaced persons, the population of urban areas of the affected states has increased dramatically, creating a greater demand for water.



In February 2018, FAO and Eni joined forces to ensure local communities had access to safe and clean water, both for domestic use and irrigation purposes. The collaboration addresses the Nigerian Federal Government’s request to create sustainable intervention programmes that would support victims of insurgency in the North East region. Within the framework of Access to Water project, FAO helps identify areas of intervention and provides technical expertise to supervise the project, assisting the relevant ministries and agencies in the targeted areas. ENI drills the boreholes and equips them with photovoltaic power systems.



The preparatory phase of the project focused on identifying suitable locations for the project. Once the intervention sites had been decided, FAO carried out a needs assessment in each of the selected communities and began consultations with stakeholders. This process involved the Ministry of Agriculture, which helped organize farmers in the communities, and the Rural Water and Sanitation Agency, which provided technical support in geophysical studies and water quality tests, and assisted in establishing WASHGROUPS/Water Users Associations (WUA). Local Government authorities, district and community heads and youth leaders were also involved with the aim to mobilize the communities and sensitize them on project ownership and sustainability.



In November 2018, the first water well was inaugurated in Waru, Abuja. The well sits at the heart of the community, providing a total of 18 faucets in three separate fetching points to allow for easier access. All the wells are electrically and solar powered by a photovoltaic system, and equipped with a reverse-osmosis plant to treat the water to ensure it is potable. Once the water is treated, it is propelled from wells that range in depth from 80–150 meters into a water tank with a capacity of 25 m3. As of June 2019, four additional boreholes in the Federal Capital Territory and five in Borno state (Bama, Biu, Chibok, Gwoza and Damboa communities) are already in use. The water wells have helped to improve overall food security, hygiene and sanitation in the communities where they are located. In the Waru camp, the well serves both IDPs and the host community, providing safe and clean water to an estimated 4 000 persons in total. The IDPs use the water to irrigate small vegetable gardens, which in turn enhance their livelihoods. The wells have also other unexpected positive impacts on the communities. As they are solar-powered and equipped with plugs, people can visit them to charge their cell phones. They are well lit at nighttime, making them a safe aggregation point within the camps. 

"Before we started using this borehole, my smallest daughter, Kadiatou, used to fall sick and whenever I took her to the hospital, the doctor asked me the source of our water for drinking. I responded that we used to fetch water from the dam site where cattle’s usually drink water. The doctor advised me to always boil the water before drinking. He said my daughter is sick as a result of the water we drink. But since I started fetching water from the FAO borehole, I have reduced the number of times I visit the hospital. We remain grateful to FAO and Eni for setting up this borehole in our community."

- Hassanatou, 42, Chibok community, Borno state


FAO, in collaboration with local authorities, delivers both IDPs and the host community training and sensitization on water management and maintenance of the systems for long-term sustainability. Once wells are ready for use, they are handed over to the community, which becomes responsible for their maintenance. The community is also encouraged to take ownership of the project by establishing a Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Committee or a Water Users Association.


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