United Nations University | Managing floods – a two-country plan to manage flood risks with science

Flood frequency in West African countries has increased in the past 50 years, a trend that is expected to continue with accelerated speed and intensity. Around the Mono River Basin, which is located at the border of Togo and Benin, the dire effects of these floods are felt by the communities living along the river basin in both countries.

“This time we visited Togo and Benin during one of the highest flood peaks. The majority of people to whom we spoke had lost everything during such a flood event and had needed to build temporary shelter for themselves in elevated areas. We saw a chance to improve the lives of those affected through sound information and knowledge on the complexities of flood risk,” said Dr. Yvonne Walz, Senior Scientist at UNU-EHS. “Our goal in the CLIMAFRI project is to shift the perspective from reacting to recurrent flood events to preventing impacts, by evaluating adaptation strategies for flood-affected communities, based on current and future scenarios of flooding.”

The CLIMAFRI project was established in response to a joint need identified by both Togo and Benin to reduce negative impacts of floods through effectively and sustainably managing water resources in the transboundary Mono River Basin.

Togo and Benin are part of the West African coastal area, which is home to about one third of the region’s population and generates 56 percent of its GDP. However, the region’s wetlands, fisheries, high tourism potential and development in general are jeopardized by alarming environmental degradation, which is leading to deaths due to floods, losses of houses and infrastructure, and damages to critical ecosystems like mangroves. In Togo alone, the total cost of floods in coastal districts is around US$10 million, which represents a large portion of the country’s total GDP.

Heavy rain in Togo and Benin in October 2019 caused the Mono River to overflow, affecting thousands of people living close to the river. The pictures show the different water level between the two field visits of the CLIMAFRI team.

Climate change is worsening this already challenging situation. Part of the UNU-EHS preliminary research findings has found that farmers in the affected communities experience flooding nearly every year now, compared to about 30 years ago. Furthermore, the main period of severe flooding shifted from June to October. This has a direct impact on crop yields and, in return, on livelihoods and food security of the most vulnerable people in the area.

Aiming to foster collaborative water management and development of the water resources of the Mono River Basin, Benin and Togo formed a unique alliance in 2014 by establishing the Mono River Basin Authority.

“The main objective of the Mono River Basin Authority is for both countries to share water resources in an integrated way. The provision of drinking water, electricity, and agriculture, all these activities need the Mono River Basin. Now, with the Mono River Basin Authority, it is no longer necessary to distinguish whether the water from the Mono is for Benin or for Togo. Now, the two countries are working together to manage all activities in the Basin,” says Agouda Kpadja, Head of Research and Information of the Directorate of Water in Togo.

“The CLIMAFRI project is a good opportunity for the government to collect and make available important data and information that will support the decision-making in disaster management, specifically on floods in the Lower Mono,” says Akpamou Kokouvi Gbetey, Director of Research and Planning at the Ministry of the Environment, Sustainable Development, and Nature Protection of Togo, one of the key partners of the project.

At the CLIMAFRI stakeholder workshop at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin, researchers from UNU-EHS worked with key actors to identify risks, exposed elements, and drivers of vulnerability to flooding.

“What makes this project different is that it brings together partners (governments and universities) from African countries and from Germany to establish an efficient information system by collecting data and information from the flood-affected communities themselves. The system will be used to support partners and communities to better adapt and plan for future climate variability,” explains Nelson Akibode, Director of Prevention and Cooperation Unit at the National Agency for Civil Protection (ANPC).
The foundation has been laid to build more resilient communities along the Mono River. Now, it is time to gather and analyze the key data and information that can help the Mono River Basin Authority and the communities themselves to prevent loss and damage, thereby saving lives and billions of dollars in future damages. The CLIMAFRI plans to publish its first results and recommendations in 2020.


The CLIMAFRI project is a German-African inter- and transdisciplinary research project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). The project aims to co-develop and co-implement adaptation strategies to efficiently manage current and future flood risk in the transboundary Lower Mono River Basin of Togo and Benin.

The CLIMAFRI project seeks to address the data and information gap and to support the Mono River Basin Authority with science-based information for decision-making to reduce the negative impacts of flood. The project will also generate tools and integrate innovative technologies at the target authority in the Lower Mono River Basin in close collaboration with African partners and relevant stakeholders in the region.

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Source: United Nations University – Institute for Environment and Human Security, 12 December 2019