Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

How can Africa cope with the increasing water scarcity?

Article from AFRIC Editorial
It is often said that water is life. The dry, patchy and dead nature of some parts of the desert only confirms this fact. We all need water to survive on this earth, as it is the essential part of every plant and animal.

Water scarcity can be considered as the lack of fresh water resources to meet the global demand for water.  Water scarcity is a global problem, affecting about one-third of the world’s population, which is about 2 billion people. Early this year, the World Economic Forum listed water as a one of the largest global risk. Statistics show that only 0.014% of all water on earth is clean and easily accessible. 97% of the earth’s water is saline and 3% is difficult to have access to.  If nothing is done to meet the current demand for fresh and clean water by man, animals, plants and even industries, the global demand for water will out match supply by 40% by 2030

Africa is the most affected part of the world with regards to the limited access to clean water, and the sub-Saharan section is the most hit part of the continent. This part of the continent lacks clean water; that is “water with microbial, chemical and physical characteristics that meets WHO (World Health Organisation) guidelines or national standards on drinking water quality.” Africa seems to be stuck in a viscous cycle of poverty as a result of the non-availability of portable water. This is because without waters, food crops, other plants and animals cannot grow, thus leading to hunger and famine in extreme cases. Without food and water, people are hungry and unhealthy and unable to work and children are unable to stay in school due to malnutrition and other hunger related problems. With these, Africa’s development is greatly delayed as her workforce is constantly sick and hungry.

Causes of Water Scarcity

  • Africa is a “dry continent”. This does not mean there is no water on the continent. The atmospheric conditions and weather patterns in Africa do not allow for regular water supply. The rainy season which many depend on to get water especially farmers come around in match and goes by September. In some areas, the rainfall does not last this long, one of the results of global warming. Places around the desert may be privileged to have water just a few times in a year.
  • Most of the available fresh water bodies in Africa are contaminated and not fit for consumption by both plants and animals, not to talk of human beings.
  • Most water sources are controlled by the government. In most cases decisions made at the administrative levels with regards to water supply do not favour the populations who depend on it.
  • A majority of Africans depend on water from streams and springs (surface water sources) which usually dry up during extreme climate conditions

  • Most Africans, individually or as a community cannot afford to extract clean ground water through wells and boreholes, and the government is doing very little to help.
  • People who have access to clean water do not use it judiciously as they waste a great quantity of it. A dripping tap is an effective way to waste water that is unavailable to many.
  • In some Africa communities, women are in charge of fetching water for the whole family. The water these women are able to get cannot effectively meet the needs of a large family because women do not have the physical strength to carry heavy gallons.

Effects of Water Scarcity on Africa’s Development

Agriculture is one of the greatest contributing factors to Africa’s development. Given that water is the primary ingredient needed to spice up good yields, its unavailability is a great handicap to the African agricultural sector, both at the subsistent and industrial levels.

A healthy workforce is essential for the development of any community. If conditions such as water scarcity, famine and water related illnesses continue to affects the population, they will be unable to contribute to the growth of the continent.

Water sources have been a source of income for many economies in Africa and around the world. The blue economy has a major role to play in the development of the African continent. But, when these water bodies begin to dry up as a result of drought, pollution and other causes, they become deadly to those who depend on it for sustenance.

Water scarcity has let to conflicts in Africa, which are very unfavourable for development. Most conflict among in sub-Saharan farmers and herders are as a result of the lack of fertile land or green land for pasture which is caused by desertification of most farming and grazing land.

Possible Solutions to Water Scarcity

  • Sustainable use and management of water resources. It is important to avoid wastage of water through leaking pipes and broken taps.
  • Learn how to collect and store water the rain or other surface water bodies for future.
  • Control the rate of water pollution which is one of the main causes of scarcity of clean water.

  • Government authorities should build and also encourage individuals to build facilities to exploit ground water sources, such as boreholes and covered wells.
  • Sensitize the population on the importance of proper water management and the consequences of water scarcity.

People who have constant access to clean water cannot understand how bad water scarcity is for those who suffer the situation. It is our global duty to make sure that people have access to clean water which is a basic necessity and a major requirement for the growth and development of any community.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Credit image : google image/illustration


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