Fyke net sampling fish populations in Moma, Nampula, Mozambique. Photo: SADC-GMI.

Three new JRS grants to support freshwater biodiversity and resources in southern Africa


For Immediate Release

CONTACT: Acting Executive Directors at director @ jrsbiodiversity.org, (206) 454-7915.

Three new JRS grants to support freshwater biodiversity and resources in southern Africa

SEATTLE, Washington – December 7, 2020 – The JRS Biodiversity Foundation announces three new grant awards totaling $653,067 under JRS’ Freshwater Biodiversity and Resources Program.  Freshwater resources in Africa are insecure in quantity and quality, and these initiatives meet the need to monitor freshwater biodiversity in priority areas for resource conservation, and to increase data access for policy and investment decision making.

Southern Africa Development Community – Groundwater Management Institute – Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDEs) and Biodiversity in the Khakea/Bray Transboundary Aquifer

Southern Africa Development Community – Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI) receives a $308,100 grant to generate and mobilize valuable data for the sustainable management of Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDEs) in Transboundary Aquifers. In the SADC region, little is known about the relationship between groundwater and GDEs or the impacts of anthropogenic changes to groundwater systems. Over three years commencing from August 2020, SADC-GMI and their partners at the Aquatic Systems Research Group (ASRG) at University of Venda and the Institute for Groundwater Studies at the University of the Free State will work to better understand these dynamics within the Khakea/Bray Transboundary Aquifer, and encourage joint management of this important resource shared between Botswana and South Africa. SADC-GMI will prioritize research which seeks to establish the full potential of the estimated 30 Transboundary Aquifers in the region, and this project will serve as a pilot to all remaining TBAs in the region.

“The SADC region’s high dependency on groundwater due to the aggravating impacts of climate change on water security demands that we focus our attention on sustainability in the context of preserving biodiversity and ecosystems” notes Mr. James Sauramba, Project Director and Executive Director of the SADC-GMI. “This support from JRS Biodiversity Foundation is an important step in enhancing our regional capacity to gather invaluable data necessary to generate information for decision-making. We look forward to upscale the results from this project to the remaining Transboundary Aquifers in the SADC region. We are extremely grateful to JRS for enabling us to implement this pioneer project that will guide and inform our future strategies.”

South African National Biodiversity Institute – South Africa Biodiversity Data Pipeline for Wetlands and Waterbirds (BIRDIE)

South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) receives a $294,967 grant to develop a freshwater biodiversity data-to-decision pipeline and web application that will provide the tools and visualizations to bridge the gap between data providers and decision makers. These tools will allow SANBI and their partners at University of Cape Town Centre for Statistics in Ecology, the Environment and Conservation, FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, Seascape Belgium, Sol Plaatje University School of Natural and Applied Sciences, and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, to better predict, understand, and manage environmental pressures and respond directly to the South African government’s objectives and policy needs. This project aims to improve and leverage two citizen science-based freshwater bird monitoring data sets which are rich in detail, one consisting of bird counts (Coordinated Waterbird Counts (CWAC)) and the other one consisting of checklist data (Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP)). The project is developing data pipelines that use state-of-the art statistical tools (state-space models and occupancy models) to extract policy-relevant information from the data and serve this information to decision makers in an online dashboard. The system is being designed with interoperability and scalability in mind, allowing for the inclusion of additional biodiversity datasets and for future initiatives to easily roll out tools to other countries and regions.

Okavango Research Institute –  ORBIS: Okavango Repository for BIodiverSity Data Planning

The Okavango Research Institute (ORI), part of the University of Botswana (UB), receives a $50,000 planning grant to design the Okavango Repository for BIodiverSity Data (ORBIS). ORBIS will manage biodiversity data from the Okavango Delta, a World Heritage and Ramsar Convention site that contains a network of wetlands that support wildlife and people in the Kalahari Desert.  This effort draws lessons from ORI’s previous JRS-funded project, a portal that stores and mobilizes environmental monitoring data collected by ORI. ORBIS aims to manage all data collected in the Okavango Delta and have the potential to incorporate data from other ecosystems throughout Botswana and the southern African region. During this six-month planning period, ORI will meet extensively with stakeholders and data experts to select the best technical design, technologies, and data protocols to ensure an effective and sustainable system.


About the JRS Biodiversity Foundation – The mission of the JRS Biodiversity Foundation is to increase access to and use of information that will lead to greater biodiversity conservation and more sustainable development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Founded in 2004, the JRS Biodiversity Foundation supports the   capacity of institutions and people who collect, manage, and share biodiversity data for Sub-Saharan Africa. JRS’ grantees connect scientific knowledge to stakeholders who make and influence decisions that are crucial to conserving biodiversity. The foundation has awarded $US 20.3 million in grants since 2007. Visit JRS online at http://jrsbiodiversity.org.

About Southern Africa Development Community – Groundwater Management Institute (SADC-GMI) – SADC-GMI is a regional Centre of Excellence aimed at promoting  sustainable groundwater management  and provide solutions  to groundwater challenges through creating an enabling policy, legal and regulatory environment, capacity development, advancing research, supporting groundwater infrastructure development, and enabling dialogue and accessibility of groundwater information in the SADC region. As a subsidiary structure of SADC Secretariat, SADC-GMI draws its mandate from the fourth phase Regional Strategic Action Plan for Integrated Water Resources Management (RSAP IV: 2016 – 2020). Visit SADC-GMI online at http://sadc-gmi.org.

About the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) – SANBI contributes to South Africa’s sustainable development by facilitating access to biodiversity data, generating information and knowledge, building capacity, providing policy advice, and showcasing and conserving biodiversity in its national botanical and zoological gardens. Visit SANBI online at https://www.sanbi.org.

About the University of Botswana, Okavango Research Institute (ORI) – The Okavango Research Institute of the University of Botswana was originally established to study the Okavango Delta in response to insufficient knowledge to formulate sustainable development plans for this world-class wetland. ORI is a multi-disciplinary institute with a vision of becoming a leading wetland research center in Africa and the world. Visit UB-ORI online at http://www.ori.ub.bw.

Contact at JRS Biodiversity Foundation: Acting Executive Director, director @ jrsbiodiversity.org, +1 (206) 454-7915

Contact at SADC-GMI: Mr. James Sauramba, Project Director, jamess @ sadc-gmi.org, +27 51 401 7498

Contact at SANBI: Ms. Nancy Job, Project Director, n.job @ sanbi.org.za, +27 21 799 8474

Contact at UB-ORI: Dr. Emily Bennitt, Project Director, ebennitt @ ub.ac.bw, +267 681 7216