Africa tipped on sound water management

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Water security in Africa is compromised by a highly variable climate with significant annual variability, experts said during the session “Building Water Resilience” at the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Kigali, Rwanda.

The experts called on African governments to enhance the profile of water management planning processes.

Mike Muller, Infrastructure Advisor of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, said that politics will not make it happen unless actions are taken to enhance the profile of water management planning processes.

“If we manage our water resources well, so that it supports agriculture, industries and is adequate for all domestic supplies, our economy will grow and there will be more resources available to provide safe drinking water for the entire population,” he noted.

Muller, who is also a water engineer, explained that for developing countries to achieve middle income status, they need efficiently manage their water resources.

“Sound water management holds the key to building resilience in Africa and can free rural communities from the vicious cycle of water shortages and as well lack of clean and safe drinking water,” he said.

The experts argued that present climate variability already destabilises economies and predicted climate change trends are likely to exacerbate problems for many, particularly the most vulnerable and poor.

“Water strain can undermine the achievement of key development goals, such as the MDG targets on access to water and sanitation, and slow progress towards sustainable development if not well managed,” noted Mohamed Ait-Kadi, President of the General Council of Agricultural Development of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Morocco.

He stated that his country, Morocco, embarked on the development and management of water resources where by about 1,000 hectares of agriculture land have been irrigated.

African governments should involve the private sector to develop robust water infrastructure that will enable efficient supply of water to communities.

The session highlighted the importance of an integrated approach to building resilience of Africa’s freshwater resources due to growing human pressures, ecosystem declines and climatic influences.
It also harnessed innovative approaches towards ensuring water security that maximizes socio-economic and ecological benefits, mitigates climate change impact.

The importance of water governance and building sustainable infrastructure and societies at national and regional levels was emphasised.

According to Stanislas Kamanzi, Rwanda’s Minister of Natural Resources, water plays a key role in building resilient economies which calls for proactive and insightful long-term vision and planning of water infrastructure.

“Projected climate change, population growth and rising demand now mean that water must be valued more carefully and this requires sector specialists to identify gaps and to ensure efficient and effective use,” he said.

Africa has the highest rate of urban population growth in the world. This is the combined result of rural-to-urban migration, population growth and the urbanization of rural areas.

In 2011, over 400 million Africans lived in urban areas – close to 40% of Africa’s population. In 50 years, about 65% of Africans will be living in urban areas.

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