A top Ugandan minister says Africa is well endowed with rivers and other waterways, and yet having enough hydropower remains a problem. Hilary Onek is Uganda’s minister of agriculture, animal industries and fisheries and one of the speakers at this year’s congress of the World Agricultural Forum, which works to improve agriculture in developing countries. Voice of America English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard reached the Ugandan minister in Kampala to ask him about the use of hydropower to improve agricultural output.
Onek said waterpower from rivers such as the Nile, the Congo and the Niger is used for dams that facilitate irrigation and to produce electricity for the processing of agricultural projects to prepare them for market. He said hydropower is the main power source for his country and is also used extensively in Ghana, Nigeria and neighboring Sudan. He said the surrounding dry lands, including Egypt, depend entirely on irrigation from the Nile.
The agricultural expert said hydropower is used to produce crops for export as well as for local consumption. As examples of export crops he cited cotton, which he says requires extensive processing.
THE POLITICS OF WATER
Onek said regional water sharing sometimes leads to conflicts. The River Nile, for example, flows through Uganda, Sudan and Egypt. He said when populations surrounding the river were smaller, they needed less water. But the minister said that today, with increasing populations, there’s more demand for water, therefore more pressure on the Nile. As a result, he said: “The countries benefiting from the river Nile are having negotiations as to how to share the Nile river, and within the next two or three months, we should come up with an agreement on how to share this resource…. In our [Uganda’s] case, we shall avoid any conflict because we are negotiating, and shall reach an agreement as to how to share the resource.”