Efforts on the African continent to mitigate climate change and enhance climate resilience received a shot in the arm after the World Bank approved the Horn of Africa Ground Water for Resilience Project, a new multi-phase plan, on Wednesday.

Under the project, the continent will benefit from $385 million in International Development Association financing that will boost the region’s capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

According to Boutheina Guermazi, World Bank director for regional integration for Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Northern Africa, World Bank experience shows that gaining knowledge on aquifers, building trust around shared groundwater resources, and jointly developing groundwater management mechanisms among countries involve a long-term trajectory that needs to be approached gradually.

Guermazi added that the role of a regional institution is key to achieving synergies, sustainability, and economies of scale.

The international lender said that the project fosters cooperation with Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development. They will work together to tap into the region’s largely untapped groundwater resources to adapt to drought and other climate stressors impacting their vulnerable borderlands. Djibouti and South Sudan have also expressed interest in joining the program in subsequent phases.

Daher Elmi Houssein, IGAD’s director of agriculture and environment division, said that groundwater constitutes a natural buffer against climate variability and change, as it is available in times of drought when other surface or subsurface resources are scarce.

“The potential is vast, and we are committed to building inclusive community-level use of this shared resource, along with better information, infrastructure, and institutions to ensure our groundwater is sustainably managed for generations to come,” Houssein said.

The World Bank said the first phase of the project is estimated to reach 3.3 million direct beneficiaries, of whom at least 50 percent are women, through interventions designed to increase access to water supply and reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts. The project will also contribute to improving food security in a region undergoing a severe drought.

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