Protecting a river by working with financial institutions
The Zambezi river flows through Zambia like a blue lifeline. The river basin is a strategically vital ecosystem regarding food and water security for the millions of people that live downstream, in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. Although this region is still in a relatively pristine condition when compared with other landscapes in Zambia, activities such as large-scale developments moving at a significant pace, unsustainable logging, and poaching are key threats to the ecosystem.
Within their freshwater work, WWF Zambia is interested in influencing developing parties in the Zambezi river basin. Mrs. Chanda Mwale Kumwenda, former Water Stewardship Manager at WWF Zambia points out that “uncoordinated development fragments the connectivity of the river and threatens fisheries, floodplains, livelihoods, and much more. A strategic plan about how to engage investments coming into the river basin was started in 2018 by the organisation. They learned the critical skills required to engage with the financial services sector.” These critical skills, according to Chanda, include collaboration, learning what makes financial institutions tick, and speaking a common language. Together, they mapped some of the critical stakeholders and decided the most effective way to go about it.
Visits with financial institutions
WWF Zambia conducted a financial flow assessment for infrastructure in the Zambezi River Basin. They organised a visit for a group of impact investors (ACTIAM and others) in September 2018, to show them the beauty of the river basin, its importance in supporting livelihoods and the economy as well as key threats. This was followed by the capacity building of several financial institutions regarding water stewardship tools and water risks. Interestingly, financial institutions were receptive to invitations.
Additionally, discussions about WWF Zambia initiatives such as Bankable Nature Solutions with multilateral banks like the World Bank took place. Dutch entrepreneurial development bank, FMO, has since funded a pre-feasibility study for a potentially bankable project. Aim is to encourage corporate to invest in pre-treatment of industrial wastewater resulting in pollution prevention. All this created a framework for WWF Zambia to better engage with the financial services sector.
What needs improvement?
Of course, there are still things that can be improved. Mainstreaming the financial sector agenda in day to day work and a consistent and continued engagement with financial institutions. The same goes for high-level engagement of financial institutions and ensuring institutional bilateral agreement. The use of international relationships where possible is necessary to ensure domestic engagement, for example with Rabobank and ZANACO.
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With SRJS, we support and strengthen local NGOs and civil society organisations in 16 countries, so that we can safeguard water supply, climate resilience and food security together with governments and companies. We also ensure that these organisations work together to become stronger.