News

    The Unique African Challenge in the Quest for Water

    Africa is rich in mineral resources and competition for them has sparked conflict in a number of countries. But the continent's most precious resource is often overlooked: water. As Cindy Shiner reports, consuming unsafe water already claims thousands of lives daily and competition for access to safe drinking water could trigger conflict in the future.

    Lush landcapes are the Africa portrayed in some popular movies in recent decades, but parched terrain is the reality that many Africans endure.

    "Africa, as many of the misconceptions show, is viewed as a place with lush bushes - the Tarzan image - but over the last 50 to 100 years a good part of the forests have been depleted," says Alem Hailu, a professor of African studies at Howard University in Washington. "There has been severe ecological degradation, tremendous increase in populations."

    As a result, the demand on existing water supplies, especially safe water, has increased dramatically. Many African women already walk hours daily to collect water. The water they bring home often is unsafe. Thousands of Africans - mostly children - die each day from water-borne diseases such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid fever. Inefficient use of water resources, poor agricultural practices and deteriorating infrastructure add to the problem of a dwindling water supply.

    Alem Hailu says concern is growing that increased competition for healthy water sources in Africa could be one more reason for the conflicts that have plagued the continent. "It can be combined with issues of religion, of identity, of regional pride," he explains, "so it can be a flashpoint for wars and very destructive consequences unless it is addressed fully and early."

    Water experts say the . Efforts are underway to improve Africa's water supply, including projects for water purification and water treatment. Alessandro Palmieri, a water specialist at the World Bank, says African nations need to make a fundamental change in the way they manage water. He says they should have water systems that are privately owned and not under the control of the national governments, in order to ensure adequate supplies of safe drinking water. That is what the World Bank is trying to develop.

    "That is the intent. Not because we are against the government as such, but we want to improve efficiency." says Mr. Palmieri. "If I am a countryman and I have to pay water to somebody who does not provide a good service, I'm not really happy. I'm prepared to pay even more if I can have a reliable service."

    In the past, large-scale international development schemes often proved too costly or complex to maintain. In some cases, government corruption thwarted progress. So now, in addition to the large projects, Africans are going back to traditional efforts, such as collecting and storing rainwater.

    "These communities for thousands of years have developed sophisticated systems of making use of the water," says Mr. Palmieri, "and many, many institutions like the World Bank are now coming to accept indigenous ways of solving this problem and decentralizing it."

    Mr. Palmieri says water recycling is another technique to make better use of existing water supplies. "For example, you can reuse residual water from an urban city for irrigation of non-edible crops or industrial processing," he explains. "The use of brackish water in some agriculture to produce fiber and things like that is very much looked at."

    He says desalination is another option to improve Africa's water supply. But the World Bank wants another fundamental change as well: involving the local population in decision making about water issues, in ways that will help maintain the quality of Africa's water, and promote more careful use.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora