Africans gathered in a circle
CLTS (Community-Led Total Sanitation) workers gathered for training in Mapetet.

Water for Eastern Equatoria (ProWaS/SSN-EES)

Working in a conflict zone: Securing water and food in South Sudan

A water resource management project in war-torn South Sudan is a good example of NIRAS’s capacity to work successfully, even under challenging and rapidly changing conditions.

What started as a long-term development project around water and food security turned partly into emergency relief due to escalating conflict in South Sudan. Even though the focus is still on improving water infrastructure and sanitation facilities, the project received a new mandate to develop quick-impact interventions for the most urgent needs: insufficient food production and the lack of income. According to FAO, millions of people were in an urgent need of food in South Sudan in 2017.

This dual approach makes this development project unique, as it integrates emergency interventions with long-term sustainable development of natural resources.

The project improves water and food security in four ways:

  1. Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) for the Kenneti Watershed: Strengthening institutions, stakeholders, and systems at all levels for joint integrated and sustainable management of water resources; establishing a hydrometeorological monitoring system, water model, and river basin strategy; promoting participation in local water management committees; and promoting appropriate land use practices.
  2. Productive use of water: E.g. Water harvesting systems; training local authorities and communities on productive water utilisation; and investments in livelihoods that are not harmful to water sources.
  3. Safe water and improved sanitation in rural areas: Using the private sector to drill boreholes equipped with hand pumps; constructing school toilets (with an emphasis on girls’ rights to menstrual health); and hygiene education at community and school level.
  4. Quick and medium-term interventions to improve food security and livelihoods: Breeding and fattening of goats, sheep, cattle and pigs; increasing stable food crop production; chicken farming to bring in revenues and food with little effort; beekeeping; improving small businesses through business development advisers. (These interventions are cross-cutting in relation to the above three components.)

Working in a conflict zone means that a robust security plan needs to be in place. The team was successfully evacuated when fighting erupted in July 2016. Later on, they were able to return to South Sudan to resume the project.

Ongoing conflict puts constraints on the project's everyday activities.

Water harvesting systems help to get through severe droughts.

For instance, after July 2016, it was too dangerous to drive freely between different project locations.

The solution is to use a more localized approach in counties where the NIRAS team cannot be physically present. This is done by working with a more direct engagement with end-users: community-based organizations, county administrations, and local NGOs. These stakeholders now take a larger role in carrying out activities, which further builds their capacity and adds to the sustainability of project outcomes.


people in South Sudan gained access to improved access water in 2016.


people in South Sudan gained access to improved sanitation in 2016


people in South Sudan benefitted directly from improved river basin management in 2016