Cuando River Basin Report Card

Elephants against the sunset

Overall health score of the Cuando River Basin:


Moderate health, but more information and work needed

In central Africa, a “linear oasis” emerges in contrast to the dry, sandy woodlands that flank the river to the East and West. Animals such as elephants, zebras, Southern African cheetahs, and African Wild dogs call this oasis home, and close to 200,000 people rely on the water and land for subsistence farming, fish, and bushmeat. This oasis is created by the Cuando River (alternately spelled as ‘Kwando’), whose basin stretches over 37,000 square miles and is shared by four countries: Angola, Zambia, Namibia, and Botswana. The Cuando is an important water source for the Zambezi River, whose waters combine and flow together into Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a World Heritage Site. Additionally, the Cuando and Zambezi are a vital part of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA), the largest transboundary conservation area on the planet.

As a critical area for conservation and ecotourism, the region needs to maintain its environmental health and quality. WWF, along with the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM), the KAZA Secretariat, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) embarked on a Basin Report Card assessment to better understand and improve regional water management across the four nations.

The Cuando River Basin report card aims to strengthen transboundary water governance and inclusive decision-making mechanisms across the four countries that the basin traverses. This work will ultimately help ensure inclusive and sustainable water resource management and increased water security for the benefit of people and ecosystems in the Cuando River Basin, and downstream in the Zambezi Basin.

Without a shared transboundary vision that balances the needs of people and the environment, these pressures could result in negative impacts on the basin and the people who live within it.

Map of 4 countries showing Cuando River Basin

Future planned development might threaten the health of the basin. It is critical to identify and protect all key freshwater and biodiversity areas in the Cuando Basin, especially in the headwater area, before further damage or degradation occurs. The efforts to coordinate this protection among the four countries can act as a living example for further implementation of transboundary water governance.