New fund targets long-term protection of the Cubango-Okavango River Basin

New fund targets long-term protection of the Cubango-Okavango River Basin

The Climate Resilient Infrastructure Development Facility (CRIDF) has supported the launch of a new fund to strengthen ecosystem resilience and improve livelihoods in the Cubango-Okavango river basin – a major water system stretching across Angola, Botswana and Namibia.

The Cubango-Okavango River Basin (CORB) Fund – announced during the 39th Annual Okavango Basin Steering Committee Meeting in Gaborone, Botswana – is an independent hybrid fund set up to finance the sustainable development of the region’s natural resources and deliver equitable benefits for all inhabitants.

The main sponsors are the Nature Conservancy, which is donating US$150,000 towards the Fund’s value proposition, and the governments of Angola, Botswana and Namibia, represented by the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission. CRIDF will play a critical supporting role – helping to mobilise funds and advise partners on the best way to select, manage and implement projects.

The Fund will be implemented in three main phases: a ‘demonstration phase’ will target an investment of US$16.5 million which includes US$0.5 million payments from each member state and a US$15 million commitment from bi-lateral development partners; a ‘fundraising’ phase two years after the Fund establishes a track record will mobilise US$200 million from high net-worth individuals, foundations, corporations and impact investors; and an ‘investment’ phase will commence once US$100 million has been raised – helping the Fund to reach its US$200 million target.

The Fund will target interventions that improve the resilience of critical ecosystems, conserve natural resources, and support sustainable livelihoods. These include conservation agriculture, potable water sanitation infrastructure, solar water heating systems, fire management, the protection of critical wetlands and woodlands and erosion control.

The near-pristine CORB region is recognised globally as a biologically rich and valuable ecosystem – it has been designated a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention and is UNESCO’s 1000th World Heritage Site. The river basin is rich in wildlife, provides livelihoods for millions of people, and supports a lucrative ecotourism sector.

But, its rivers and deltas are facing a multitude of pressures – from population growth to climate change and poorly-planned infrastructural development. In recent years high levels of poverty have driven the need for new infrastructure and market opportunities to underpin social and economic development – but any gains brought by major infrastructural improvements will ultimately be undermined in the longer-term if the essential health of ecosystems is destroyed in the process.

Registered on 11 December as a company limited by guarantee, under the Companies Act of Botswana, the Fund’s incorporation certification was presented at the Steering Committee Meeting where it was warmly received by representatives from Angola, Botswana and Namibia – demonstrating their commitment to this critical ecosystem and renewing hopes for its long-term protection.