Archive for February, 2016

February 29, 2016

Water Experts Call For Partnership in Solving Water Problems

Fredrick Mugira

February 29, 2016

Water experts from different countries across the globe are rooting for the partnership approach in solving water resource problems.

The call comes as the water professionals and authorities from Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Mexico, Mongolia, Peru, Tanzania and South Africa meet in Pretoria, South Africa for a week-long knowledge exchange organised by the 2030 Water Resource Group (2030 WRG), a global public-private-civil society partnership based in Washington USA in collaboration with Stockholm International Water Institute and the Water and Sanitation Department of South Africa.

Addressing the close to 100 participants at Sheraton Pretoria hotel, Anders Berntell, the 2030 WRG Executive Director stressed that partnerships based on collaboration and teamwork would provide more consistent, co-ordinated and comprehensive solution to the water resource problems.

Anders Berntell, the 2030 WRG Executive Director

Anders Berntell, the 2030 WRG Executive Director

Such partnerships could be between individuals; private sector; agencies; organisations and governments. And according to water experts attending this meeting, this would help to solve problems like: water scarcity; aquifer depletion; corruption in the water sector; water overuse; pollution and changes in water availability among others.

One of the countries that have benefited from this approach is Kenya, a country facing a 30 per cent deficit between the water resources and demand, according to water experts.

In an exclusive chat with WaterSan Perspective at the meeting, Kimanthi Kyengo, the Kenya’s Deputy Director in charge of Water Services said such an approach is a practical solution to Kenya’s water problems.

“It is one of the solutions that is potentially beneficial to Kenya. It brings ideas, expertise and resources in the water sector.”

To make this approach work, Kimanthi says Kenya has, “Developed concepts on how it would benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens; sensitised all the stakeholders about the process and is now in the process of recruiting stakeholders to come together to look for solutions.”

Similarly, this approach has worked in Tanzania. Engineer Christopher Sayi, the chairperson of National Water Board for Tanzania says it is helping to make sure all stakeholders especially the private sector know their roles in conserving the water resource.

“That is why we are encouraging these partnerships so that they (private sector) can also contribute in terms of technology and also contribute towards financing the management of water resources in the country.”

Tanzanian delegation. Engineer Christopher Sayi, the chairperson of National Water Board for Tanzania standing

Tanzanian delegation. Engineer Christopher Sayi, the chairperson of National Water Board for Tanzania standing

Earlier, while speaking during the opening session, Anton Earle, the Director of Africa regional centre for the Swedish International Water Institute gave an example of partnership between governments citing the South African government which is partnering with that of Lesotho to import water to Pretoria, some 400 kilometres away, following high rains in Lesotho.

February 25, 2016

Ghana: Parliamentarians Demand Explanation for Water Crisis

Ama Kudom-Agyemang

February 25, 2016

Usually, it is the agitations of residents that give an indication of water shortage, scarcity or crisis. But when a nation’s legislature become the agitators unanimously, it is a signal that water has now become an urgent political matter.

It is a good sign that, the current water crisis that has hit portions of the country has alarmed and shaken the nation’s Parliamentarians to demand an explanation from the relevant institutions. It indicates that leaders are beginning to understand with greater depth and clarity the urgent need to pay attention to water.

The crisis has come just at the heels of the commendation Ghana received for having made significant progress in attaining the water targets of the now ended Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In other words, Ghana was able to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water. The country’s attainment is pegged at 80 percent coverage.

Water scarcity is one of the world's leading problems affecting more than 1.1 billion people globally

Water scarcity is one of the world’s leading problems affecting more than 1.1 billion people globally

While, ordinary citizens might be wondering what has gone wrong, water experts might not be puzzled by the unfolding events of water shortages or access to safe water in sections of the country.

They are aware of the fact that the country is well endowed with significant freshwater resources that could compare to current uses at that time and demands in the foreseeable future. They are also not ignorant that the amount of water available changes distinctly from season to season as well as from year to year. Moreover, the experts know that distribution of freshwater is not uniform, with the south western part of the country or the high forest zone being better water than the coastal and northern zones or savannah wood and grass lands.

The National Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Plan prepared in December 2012, by a team of experts in consultation with representatives of the key stakeholders, warned that the nation’s water resources, “are at risk of depletion and degradation…”

According to the document, problems are emerging because of uncontrolled catchment degradation due to human activities such as poor agricultural practices especially farming along river banks coupled with population pressure, deforestation and surface mining, which all always affect surface water availability and quality.

Another major problem identified in the document include pressure from climate change and climate variability, which impact on the natural flow of water in river channels. The document notes that “Fresh water regimes have been modified resulting in shrinking of the resources, and affecting water supply and river transport.” Consequently, some areas experienced severe floods, with others drought.

A third key problem has to do with increasing population growth and urbanization leading to increased demand on land, water and other natural resources, resulting in conflicting and competing water uses and pollution.

On Friday, February 26th, 2016 when Parliament convenes, top on the agenda is a statement to the House by the Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing. The Minister and his key officials including the Executive Secretary of the Water Resources Commission will respond to queries regarding the current situation from the House.

It is certain that they will touch on the challenges such as weak enforcement of regulations; lack of regulations on dam safety and control of industrial effluent and sewerage outfalls and lack of adequate data on surface and ground water quantity and quality. They are also likely to mention the non-incorporation into sectorial water management strategies of climate change and climate variability impacts on water and other natural resources.

Water problems in developing countries are acute and complex

Water problems in developing countries are acute and complex

It will be prudent on the part of the Minister to also mention that unregulated activities in river basins leading to catchment degradation and poor water quality as well as inadequate systems for early warning and mitigation effects from floods and droughts are additional key challenges confronting the sector.

The Minister should be able to impress on the House that in the face of the increasing population and growing uses of freshwater vis a vis depletion of usable freshwater resources, water requires careful management and monitoring in its use and availability. The House will need to appreciate that the time has come to re-think the nation’s development priorities and institutions should be made to work.

As Parliamentarians spearheading national legislature formulation, they have the power to negotiate and resolve the current conflicts besetting the natural resources sector. Conflicts that could have been prevented if the there was a working National Land Use Policy in place. Such a policy would have identified practical land use options and provided guidelines for the competing land uses – agriculture, logging, mining and biodiversity conservation including integrated water resources management.

But the current water crisis in parts of the country is not an isolated case and happens to be one of the global scenarios. Scientists are even arguing that the current situation has arisen because “we’ve been significantly underestimating our water footprint.” New studies published in the Science journal estimates that “global water consumption has increased by nearly 20 percent,” adding, “we may have crossed an unsustainable threshold in our water use.”

It is against this background that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon convened an emergency panel of heads of states to prompt a political response to the world’s increasing scarcity of water. This was at the special session of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting earlier this month during which a special Panel was formed to move global water actions forward.

The Secretary General stressed that “Water is a precious resource, crucial to realising the sustainable development goals, which at their heart aim to eradicate poverty.” He hoped, “the new panel can help motivate the action we need to turn ideas into reality,” and said “countries needed to take the lead on tackling the problem.”

The President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim, who was at the event said “achieving the global water goal would have multiple benefits, including laying the foundations for food and energy security, sustainable urbanisation, and ultimately climate security.” He expected the panel to “accelerate action in many countries so that we can make water more accessible to all.”

 (The writer can be reached on kudomagyemang@yahoo.com/kudomagyemanf@gmail.com)

February 25, 2016

Southern Africa: SADC Prepares for El Niño Impact

WaterSan Perspective

February 25, 2016

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) secretariat has today convened a two-day multi-sectoral stakeholder consultative meeting to develop a regional preparedness and response strategy to address the impacts of El Niño on Agriculture and Food and Nutrition Security in Southern Africa.

SADC Logo

SADC Logo

The El Niño phenomenon is caused by warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the eastern Equatorial Pacific and is usually associated with reduced total rainfall over a shorter period than normal across the region.

In a region where over 70 percent of the population depend on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood, the El Niño event has greatly   impacted on food and nutrition security of millions of vulnerable people.

According to Barbara Lopi, the communications and awareness expert at the water sector of SADC Secretariat, some 165 delegates from the agriculture, environment, food and nutrition, disaster management, climate change, water, health, planning and finance sectors from the 15 SADC member states are participating in the meeting which is being organised with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP). Other participants include representatives from the humanitarian, development and donor communities.

Climate-related natural disasters including floods, storms and heat waves have steadily increased across the globe over the past 40 years. Photo by Muchunguzi Emmy

Climate-related natural disasters including floods, storms and heat waves have steadily increased across the globe over the past 40 years. Photo by Muchunguzi Emmy

Lopi notes that the meeting, at Southern Sun OR Tambo International Airport Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa, is meant to help form a common understanding of El Niño and agree on essential actions and commitments on how to best prepare, respond and mitigate its impact through a coordinated, multi-sectoral regional approach.

February 22, 2016

Uganda: Lake Victoria Farmers Lament Continued Land-Grabbing, Environmental Destruction and Human Rights Violations

WaterSan Perspective

February 22, 2016

The Bugala Farmers Association has called on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to sever its ties with Bidco Africa, a Kenya-based edible oil producer accused of land-grabbing, human rights violations and environmental disasters in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

Over 100 farmers lost their land to Bidco when, in partnership with the local government, the company deforested more than 7,500 hectares (18,500 acres) of rain forest and smallholder farms on Bugala Island on Lake Victoria to make way for one of the largest palm oil plantations in Africa.

Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria

In a petition delivered to the UNDP Kampala office on 28 January, the Bugala Farmers Association called on the UNDP to investigate the organisation’s recent announcement that Business Call to Action (BCtA), a UNDP offshoot, concluded an agreement with Bidco Africa.

“For those who know the real business practices of Bidco Africa and its CEO Vimal Shah, the embrace by BCtA of Bidco Africa is a tragedy for smallholder farmers and a major stain on the reputation of UNDP,” the petition says.

The petition cites Bidco Africa’s failure to comply with court orders to compensate the farmers for their land; the company’s labour practices in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya; alleged tax evasion in Kenya; and the deforestation of land for its palm oil production in Uganda. The deforestation has become so bad that the World Bank, originally a sponsor of the project, had to withdraw its support.

“The Bugala Farmers Association calls on UNDP and its senior leadership to examine the morally questionable association of such a distinguished U.N. organisation with such a blatant violator of human rights that is Bidco Africa,” the petition says. “The evidence of Bidco Africa’s poor business practices is well documented, and UNDP must immediately disassociate itself with such a company.”

The petition continues: “Bidco Africa, which claims to adhere to the U.N. Global Compact, is in fact in violation of all U.N. Global Compact principals, from human rights to protection of the environment. Against the backdrop of such repeated violations, the UNDP/BCtA’s partnership with Bidco Africa is a violation of UNDP’s core mission and principals.”

When the farmers presented their petition at the UNDP office in Kampala, security officers blocked them at the compound gate and confiscated video filmed by accompanying media. UNDP officials refused to meet the farmers, and suggested that the petition – which is addressed to UNDP Administrator Helen Clark – could only be delivered at the organisation’s headquarters in New York City. Only after a four-hour wait was the petition officially received by a UNDP receptionist in Kampala.

In addition to Administrator Clark, the petition is addressed to Peter Liria, Chief Ethics Officer, Director of the Ethics Office; Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Director Regional Bureau for Africa; and Mila Rosenthal, Director of Communications; among others.

The UNDP has not responded to the farmers’ petition since it was presented on 28 January.

February 19, 2016

Malawi: Farmers Exploit Diamphwe River and Dambo Land for Farming as Business

George Mhango
February 19, 2016

He was poverty stricken. Stubborn to take elders’ counsel. Failed to feed his family. Lived hopelessly. Believed in stealing, alcoholism and trouble making, characters that are not in line with the Christian values, Jesus preached.

His children and family could not appreciate family love. They failed to make ends. Often times, thronged their parents-in-law for food, clothes and financial support.

Malekano Chikupila, Village Head Nzuma in T/A Mazengera in Lilongwe was at the centre of this. He was struck by poverty. However, close to him were untapped fertile land and water.

Few kilometres after Kamphata in Lilongwe as you travel on the M1 Road lies Diamphwe River and vast Dambo land—precious resources for farming as business.

But all Chikupila needed were farming skills and counseling so that he can exploit Diamphwe River and the vast Dambo land for farming as business in a move to live a happier life. He recalls that life became unbearable when he got married.

But now, Chikupila lives a decent life out of farming, which he did not believe could transform him likewise his family members.

Chikupila in middle, explains the significance of farming

How? This follows training sessions by Nkhoma Youth Department under the CCAP Synod—with funding from Y-Malawi through World Vision—held for Nkhoma-Chilenje youths.

“Since I joined the club my life has changed for the better. I used to cause havoc in the area, which is not the case today. I did not mind what trouble to cause. But look, I now contribute positively to the family and development of the community,” explains Chikupila.

Chikupila is a staunch farmer and dedicated church member of the CCAP. Like other members, he too takes advantage of rain and Diamphwe River water to grow cabbage, maize, beans and tomato for subsistence and commercial purposes.

He has iron sheets out of the farming business, a thing he recalls would not have done some years before 2013.

“I bought 15 bags of maize last year to beef up with what I harvested using the money I gained from sales of other farm produce. This year, I expect to sell more and continue with my investments plans,” says Chikupila.

He, however, pleads for timely availability of farm input and field officers so that they have advanced skills in agricultural production in view of the global talk of climate change.

Youths under Diamphwe Club say the presence of more field officers in the agriculture sector is vital for more financial gains.

The club, which comprises 40 members—has seen its members grow maize, tomatoes, cabbage, beans and other crops since inception in 2013.

Through the growth of such crops, various members of the club have prospered in their day to lives such that they are a force to reckon with.

With increased population growth in Malawi, which the United Nations estimates at 16 million, business operators and farmers stand to benefit more if they increase production to meet the demand.

Chikupila's tomato garden

Chikupila’s tomato garden

Malawi Government and various local and international organisations think Malawians should regard farming as business if they are to progress in life. These organisations include agricultural and humanitarian ones such as World Vision.

This is why World Vision deputy national director Fordson Kafweku recently echoed by saying that population growth should be regarded as an opportunity for producers to make more profits.

He adds: “It is an issue of demand and supply. If there are more people, it means producers of various goods and services have to boost their production to match with the increasing demand,” says Kafweku.

Josephine Jacob, a secondary school student shared another success story following the introduction of youth clubs in Nkhoma. She comes from a family of four (two boys and two girls).

She says she is can now afford paying school fees for herself. According to her, she sells Mandasi after knocking off from school.

When in class, it’s her relations who sell Mandasi on her behalf.

“I am a member of Diamphwe Youth Club and through my business, I buy clothes, school uniform, shoes and notebooks. On daily basis, I make at least K2 000 (U$2.8) per day. I am also into village savings,” she says.

Josephine explains that life was tough before she attained business, leadership, health and other skills.

She salutes Nkhoma Youth Department and World Vision for the training.

“My parents could not fend for my needs. They struggled buying me school uniform, shoes and clothes, which I can now afford,” she says.

Different youth clubs operate under Nkhoma Youth Department.

According to Kennedy Chabwera Programs Officer for Nkhoma Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Student Organization (CCAPSO) clubs were formed to shape the youths into reliable citizens.

“Those who patronize the clubs have changed their behaviour and that’s what we intend to achieve,” says Chabwera.

He adds that they provide youths with books and any other written literature to improve their business, farming and leadership skills.

Nkhoma Youth Department gets support from Y-Malawi through World Vision for its activities.

February 19, 2016

Swiss Re Foundation Offers 150 000 USD in Awards to Initiatives Strengthening Resilience in Water Management

WaterSan Perspective Reporter
February 19, 2016

An international organization based in Switzerland that addresses social and humanitarian problems worldwide and builds local capacity to face them – Swiss Re Foundation, has announced the launch of the “ReSource Award 2017″.

The ReSource Award focuses on social entrepreneurial approaches implementing the principles of sustainability in water management.

The prize builds on more than ten years of experience in supporting outstanding partners heading for sustainable watershed management.

An international jury will award up to USD 150 000 to new social entrepreneurial initiatives driving sustainable water management practices. The prize combines financial and non-financial contributions.

Chrispus Twikirize, fetches water from their well in Ibaare, Igara Bushenyi district of Uganda

Chrispus Twikirize, fetches water from their well in Ibaare, Igara Bushenyi district of Uganda

With this award, the Swiss Re Foundation aims at contributing to the advancement of water resilience in low, lower-middle and upper–middle-income countries.

The foundation is now inviting charities, non-profit organizations and revenue-generating social enterprises to submit proposals for novel, entrepreneurial solutions in sustainable water management practices.

One of the 2016 Finalists is MSABI http://msabi.org, in Tanzania. MSABI was started in 2009 by Australian Engineer Dale Young in response to frequent cholera and typhoid outbreaks in the rural regions of Tanzania.

It is a Social Business Incubator. The organization is pioneering progressive and innovative hardware and software systems that create and “spin-off” independent and locally owned WASH service delivery businesses. They help stimulate and create local market demand for essential services that improve the livelihoods and wellbeing of disadvantaged rural and peri-urban communities.

February 13, 2016

Ghana: Journalists to Scoop Awards for Reporting About Open Defecation

By Ama Kudom-Agyemang

February 13, 2016

The fight to make Ghana an Open Defecation Free (ODF) country, has been taken to another level following the institutionalization of an award scheme for Ghanaian journalists dubbed, “Face of ODF Media Feature and Photo Contest.” It is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) and UNICEF, Ghana.

The scheme, launched in December last year, is meant to compliment national efforts in attaining the goal of ODF Ghana by 2020 as contained in the Ghana Sanitation and Water for All document of 2014.

A makeshift bathroom. Few people in developing countries are familiar with the dangerous health risks their families face due to their poor sanitary facilities.

A makeshift bathroom. Few people in developing countries are familiar with the dangerous health risks their families face due to their poor sanitary facilities.

However, it is doubtful, if the majority of Ghanaians are aware of this national goal which is just four years away.

The goal of an ODF Ghana by 2020, no doubt, has been necessitated by the nationwide practice of open defecation (OD) popularly known as “free range.”  It is a practice whereby people just defecate or shit in the open, leaving the faeces exposed and not giving a damn about the consequences.

But open defecation is deemed the riskiest of all sanitation practices, posing the greatest danger to human health and can have fatal consequences – particularly for the most vulnerable, especially young children. The risk lies in the fact that human contact with human excreta can transmit many infectious diseases including cholera and typhoid. It also affects the growth of children under five leading to stunting – a condition that distorts the physical growth and intellectual abilities in children.

Experts say one gram of human faeces contains over 10 million germs and once faeces is exposed, coming into contact with it is very easy – The fact is that we pick up germs with our hands from various points including when we clean ourselves after using the toilet, during playing or working, from objects such as doorknobs and stair railings as well as from handshakes. As long as the immediate surroundings and wider environment is polluted with faecal matter, it stands to reason that everything within its reach will be contaminated with the germs.

Probably, the practice is on-going because people are ignorant of the relationship between the practice and their health and general well-being. Additionally, they may be unaware that the practice perpetuates the vicious cycle of disease and entrenches poverty. Information dissemination is therefore crucial in the national fight to eliminate open defecation from the country.

To this end, the media is paramount and their contribution to the campaign against open defecation, should be appreciated. But much more, media innovativeness in investigating into issues, packaging the information collated and disseminating it to the public is to be recognized and awarded. Fact is, it is the Constitutional mandate of the media to disseminate information on all matters of public interest to the public.

The Ghanaian media was reminded of this Constitutional obligation by David Duncan, Chief of WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene), UNICEF, Ghana, at the launch of the “Face of ODF Media Feature and Photo Contest,” in Accra on Tuesday, December 2015. He said the Constitutional provision establishing the freedom and independence of the media, also charges the media to uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the people of Ghana.

David Duncan, Chief of WASH, UNICEF, Ghana

David Duncan, Chief of WASH, UNICEF, Ghana

Mr. Duncan stated: “This is both a very powerful right and a very powerful responsibility.”  He noted that in the national quest to end open defecation, the media could discharge its responsibility, “by highlighting the challenges of open defecation in Ghana, by highlighting successes and failures in rising to this challenge, by telling the stories of how Ghanaians are impacted by open defecation, and how they are responding. By raising the profile of open defecation.”

He added that “… both the media and the Ghanaian public are then well placed to question how the country is not responding to these challenges and to hold ourselves accountable.” Mr. Duncan expressed concerned about the almost stagnated pace towards eliminating open defecation from Ghana. He said while the rest of the world is improving in the area of ensuring that most the population has access to toilets, “Ghana seems to be standing still.”

To support this claim, Mr. Duncan quoted some national statistics. “In 1990, 22% of Ghanaians defecated in the open. The 2014 DHS survey tells us that 21% of Ghanaians still do so. A one percent improvement in 24 years.” He pointed out, “At this rate, Ghana will be free of open defecation in 500 years.”

Mr. Duncan was of the view that media contribution could help reverse the current trend and facilitate the process towards the attainment of the goal of an open defecation free Ghana.

The Deputy Director of the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate of the MLGRD, Cosmas Kambozie was of the same view. He said “with the support of the media the national goal of ODF Ghana can be achieved in the nearest foreseeable future.” He however pointed out that in addition to media contribution, the realization of the goal of ODF Ghana will require “significantly increased investments in order to improve sanitation.”

Mr. Kambozie noted that investments in sanitation will not only provide basic services, but will also reap benefits well beyond the water and sanitation sector. He stressed that “investments in water and sanitation in fact are investments in health, education, the environment and poverty reduction.

The “Face of ODF Media Feature and Photo Contest,” is open to all Ghanaian journalists. Thematic areas for the media to focus on, as stated in the factsheet on the Contest include: the menace of open defecation; community efforts to become ODF; exemplary leadership (by DCEs, REHOs, natural leaders, etc.) that has triggered ODF initiatives; conflicts in the implementation of the ODF initiative and how they can be turned around for the benefit of the people and nation at large; and a cost benefit analysis of OD & ODF.

According to the factsheet, submitted articles should have been published or broadcast between January to June 2016. These stories should be accompanied by compelling photos that can tell stories on their own. Submissions from the radio categories are however exempted from this criteria. The choice of words and tone of voice in such stories, should vividly portray the imagery of the “Face of ODF.”

(The writer can be reached on:  kudomagyemang@yahoo.com   or kudomagyemang@gmail.com  )

 

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