Archive for ‘water’

February 18, 2017

Somalia: UN Warns of Famine Danger as Drought Intensifies

Water Journalists Africa
February 18, 2017

Map of Puntland

Map of Puntland

As a devastating drought grips Somalia, UNICEF and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are warning that only a massive and immediate scale-up of humanitarian assistance can help the country avoid falling into another catastrophe.

The drought that the northern regions have struggled with for the last year has now spread throughout Somalia, threatening an already fragile population battered by decades of conflict. Almost half the country’s population, or 6.2 million people, are either severely food insecure or in need of livelihood support. It is expected that 944,000 children will be acutely malnourished this year, including 185,000 who will be severely malnourished and in need of urgent lifesaving support. It is very likely that this projected number of severely malnourished children could increase 50 percent to 270,000 over the coming months.

The UNICEF and WFP representatives this week have been visiting some of the worst-affected areas in the northern Puntland region, where the two agencies are delivering much-needed assistance.

“Huge numbers of Somalis have come to the end of all their possible resources and are living hand-to-mouth,” said Steven Lauwerier, the UNICEF Somalia Representative. “We have a small window of opportunity to avert this looming catastrophe and save children’s lives and we are determined to work with all partners and stakeholders to succeed.”

The UNICEF and WFP representatives this week have been visiting some of the worst-affected areas in the northern Puntland region

The ongoing drought and other shocks have left communities with little to no resources to fall back on. Whole villages have lost their crops or seen their livestock die. The prices of water and locally produced food have risen dramatically, and thousands of people are on the move in search of food and water. The drought has also led to an increase in waterborne diseases with more than 4,000 cases of Acute Watery Diarrhoea/Cholera this year.

“Humanitarian assistance has saved lives in the drought-affected north over the past year, but as the crisis spreads we have no time to lose,” said WFP Country Director Laurent Bukera. “Together with UNICEF and other partners, we are moving as quickly as possible to reach many more people with lifesaving support using every option we have, including cash-based transfers, specialized nutrition support and airlifting of relief goods.”

The agencies noted that humanitarian access remains worryingly limited in some drought-affected areas of the south, but that WFP and UNICEF are reinforcing their joint efforts to scale up the response in areas that are accessible, where millions of lives are at risk.

The agencies are responding together to the drought by providing food and water vouchers to hundreds of thousands across the most affected areas of Somalia as well as nutrition assistance. As additional resources are mobilised, this joint response will continue to expand in the most vulnerable regions.

Funds have been generously provided by international donors from Europe, Asia, North America and the UN system for life-saving services in nutrition, food security, health, education, water and sanitation.

With the growing needs, UNICEF and WFP together still require more than US$450 million to be able to provide urgent assistance required in the coming months.

February 18, 2017

Somalia: Norway scales Up Efforts to End Famine caused by Severe Drought in Somalia

WaterSan Perspective
February 18, 2017

Somalia has once again been hit by a severe drought, which could quickly develop into a famine. “A large proportion of the population is affected by the drought, and over six million people are in need of food aid. Norway is now increasing its support for humanitarian efforts in the country by NOK 64 million, in an effort to prevent the situation from developing into a new, large-scale famine,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

Just a few years after the major famine of 2011, Somalia has again been hit by drought. This time, the drought is affecting almost the whole country, and therefore threatening larger numbers of people and animals than six years ago. Over the last few months, there has been a dramatic deterioration in the humanitarian situation. Some 6.2 million people do not have enough food, and the situation is critical for around half of them, according to the UN.

Climate change as a result of global warming continues to cause havoc in various parts of the world, drying up farmlands that livestock used to depend on.

Climate change as a result of global warming continues to cause havoc in various parts of the world, drying up farmlands that livestock used to depend on.

“The crisis is escalating fast. There are worrying reports that a growing number of people are facing food and water shortages, that the major rivers are drying up and that cattle and other animals are dying,” said Mr Brende.

The additional funds from Norway will be channeled through the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Norwegian humanitarian organisations that have many years’ experience of working in Somalia.

“I am pleased that Somalia’s newly elected president, Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ Mohamed, has said that providing support for those affected by the drought is his number one priority. It is vital to ensure that people in need of assistance actually have access to aid. The unstable security situation and the armed conflict are still causing considerable problems, not least in the hardest hit areas that are also most in need of aid,”said Mr Brende.

One of the lessons learnt from the famine of 2011 was that it is crucial to provide humanitarian assistance as quickly as possible to prevent illness, suffering, and death from starvation. It is estimated that 260 000 people died of starvation in 2011. The crisis forced several hundred thousand people to flee their homes, and further exacerbated the refugee crisis in Somalia’s neighbouring countries, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Last year, Norway provided almost NOK 400 million in aid to Somalia. This included support for efforts to promote food security through the World Food Programme and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Norway is also providing funding through the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which has allocated NOK 150 million to Somalia for 2017.

February 17, 2017

Zambia: A Water Project to Benefit Parts of Zambia and Malawi Launched

February 17, 2017
JULIUS PHIRI

Eastern Province Acting Permanent Secretary Patrick Mwanawasa and Malawian Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Erica Maganga during the K15 million project launch for the construction of the water and sanitation schemes for border posts of Chanida, Mwami and Mchinji at Mwami Border in Chipata .Picture By JULIUS PHIRI

Eastern Province Acting Permanent Secretary Patrick Mwanawasa and Malawian Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Erica Maganga during the K15 million project launch for the construction of the water and sanitation schemes for border posts of Chanida, Mwami and Mchinji at Mwami Border in Chipata. Picture By JULIUS PHIRI

The Zambia and Malawi have launched a K15 million project for the construction of the water and sanitation schemes for border posts of Chanida, Mwami and Mchinji.

The project is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), Climate Resilient Infrastructure Development Facility (CRIDF) on three border areas of which two are on the Zambian side while one was on the Malawian side.

The Zambia’s Eastern Province Minister Makebi Zulu said during the launch of water and sanitation schemes held in January at Mwami Border in Chipata District of Eastern Zambia that the availability of water and good sanitation today were human rights.

The Minister said through acting Permanent Secretary Patrick Mwanawasa that his Government would endeavour to provide the services through commercial utilities like Eastern Water and Sewerage Company (EWSC).

He said the company together with Central Regional Water Board through CRIDF and the British Government have worked on the commencement works of the water reticulations at the border towns.

Mr Zulu said the project involves the construction of a water supply system and an ablution block in Mwami and Mchinji as well as the rehabilitation of the existing ablution block at Chanida border.

“This project is targeting the border areas taking into consideration the travelling public and also the residents. Over 6,000 travellers and 1,500 households are expected to benefit from this project,” he
said.

He said the water reticulation for the three border areas would promote good health and bring dignity to the residents and travelling public.

With the present situation in the three border areas, the minister said residents and travelling public especially truck drivers who were marooned for days at the borders would get good drinking water and sanitary services.

Mr Zulu said he was aware that lack of good sanitation obstructs the right to life and health.

He commended the chiefs for giving permission to EWSC and CRWB to put up the facilities in the border areas.

He appealed to the travelling public and the residents to protect the facilities which would contribute to good sanitation and lead to a reduction of water borne disease in the three border areas.

Speaking earlier, Malawian Principal Secretary in the ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Erica Maganga said the scope of the project on the Malawian side shall include drilling and equipping of three boreholes, laying of transmission and distribution pipeline network and construction of a water tank, an ablution block and two communal water points.

Mrs Maganga said this would serve cross-border travellers, the local community as well as the general public at the border town with sanitary and health facilities.

“Individuals that can afford individual household water connections shall also be served. It is believed that, with the installation of the water supply system here, this border town will quickly transform because other investors are likely come in with different services, “she said.

Mrs Maganga said development of such social amenities in towns and market centres was integral to socio-economic development of the concerned towns.

She paid sincere appreciation to all the people and institutions which have she commendable EWSC and CRWB for twinning so that the sphere of co-operation could be stretched played various roles towards realisation of the project.

And EWSC Managing Director Lytone Kanowa said he was happy that the project was taking off.

African Brothers Limited, a Chinese contractor is engaged to carry out the project for 112 days.

February 15, 2017

Ethiopia: Experts Warn of Dire Consequences as Lake Turkana’s Water Levels Fall

WaterSan Perspective
February 15, 2017

Dropping water levels in Kenya’s Lake Turkana following the development of dams and plantations in Ethiopia’s lower Omo Valley threaten the livelihoods of half a million indigenous people in Ethiopia and Kenya according to the Human Rights Watch.

Based on publicly available data from the United States Department of Agriculture, Lake Turkana’s water levels have dropped by approximately 1.5 meters since January 2015, and further reduction is likely without urgent efforts to mitigate the impact of Ethiopia’s actions.

Human Rights Watch research based on satellite imagery shows that the drop is already affecting the shoreline of the lake, which has receded as much as 1.7 kilometers in Ferguson Gulf since November 2014.

The Gulf is a critical fish breeding area, and a key fishing ground for the indigenous Turkana people.

“The predicted drop in the lake levels will seriously affect food supplies in the Omo Valley and Lake Turkana, which provide the livelihoods for half a million people in both Kenya and Ethiopia,” says Felix Horne, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“The Ethiopian government’s moves to develop its resources should not endanger the survival of indigenous people living downstream.”

In 2015, the reservoir behind the new Gibe III dam in Ethiopia began filling. Water that previously flowed unimpeded into Lake Turkana, replenishing seasonal drops in lake levels, has since been held behind the Gibe III dam. In 2015 the annual July-November flood from the Omo River into Lake Turkana did not occur, resulting in a drop of water levels of 1.3 meters from November 2014. The very limited artificial release of water from Gibe III in 2016 was not enough to replenish water levels in Lake Turkana.

As of January 30, 2017, lake levels were approximately 1.5 meters lower than they were two years earlier according to the data.Lack of safe drinking water is one of the world's leading problems affecting more than 1.1 billion people globally. Most of these live in Africa.

Lack of safe drinking water is one of the world’s leading problems affecting more than 1.1 billion people globally. Most of these live in Africa.

People living in fishing communities along Lake Turkana who spoke to Human Rights Watch in August 2016, were generally aware of the risks posed by Gibe III but largely uninformed about the plantations and the devastating impact they could have on their livelihoods.

When Human Rights Watch visited communities around Ferguson Gulf on the western lake shores that month, local residents had noticed changes from previous years in the lake levels.

People who depend on fishing for their livelihood said that their daily catch has been reduced. One 50-year-old woman living near Lake Turkana told Human Rights Watch in August 2016: “It has been difficult these days…the main issue has been hunger. There is reduced water in the lake.”

While multiple factors contribute to the decline, including overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices, a further drop in lake levels will most likely reduce catches even further.

The Kenyan government has done little to address the impact from Ethiopia’s Omo Valley development, or to press Ethiopia to take steps to mitigate the damage and to consult with and inform affected communities about the impact of the project.

The governments of Kenya and Ethiopia should urgently work with these communities to ensure upstream industrial works does not devastate their livelihoods, Human Rights Watch said.

In addition to the industrial developments in lower Omo, climate change is exacerbating the already significant problems the Turkana people face in getting sufficient food and water, and maintaining their health and security.

“The Ethiopian government has shown scant regard for the lives and livelihoods of already marginalized communities who are reliant on the Omo River and Lake Turkana for their livelihoods,” Horne said. “In its rush to develop its resources it has not developed strategies to minimize the impact on those living downstream.”

Ethiopia’s Gibe III dam, which opened on December 17, 2016, is a key component of a massive industrial project in the lower Omo Valley that includes a cascade of water-intensive mega dams, and sugar and cotton plantations. The sugar plantations have been under development in the Omo Valley since 2011.

Based on Human Rights Watch estimates derived from satellite imagery, approximately 19,500 hectares of land has been cleared on the east bank of the river for sugar plantation development. An additional 10,500 hectares has been prepared for irrigation on the west bank.

The sugar plantations are planned to be 100,000 hectares. According to the Ethiopian Sugar Corporation, the first of the four sugar processing factories should be ready to begin production in early 2017.

In Ethiopia, livelihoods of those living in the Omo Valley depend on cattle grazing and planting crops in the rich alluvial soil along the banks of the Omo River. This alluvial soil is replenished by the annual flood, which deposits water and nutrient rich sediment along the banks. A lack of floods in 2015 and an inadequate artificial flood in 2016 are making it more difficult to grow food along the Omo River.

Some communities have also reported restricted access to the Omo River and food shortages in 2016. Furthermore, the plantations necessitate clearing of land used by agro-pastoral indigenous groups including the Bodi and the Mursi. The Bodi have been the most heavily affected, with a significant area of their land cleared.

“The projections of the water drawdown on Lake Turkana, routinely rubbished by Ethiopia’s government, are coming true and lake levels have started dropping,” Horne said. “This should serve as a warning about what could happen if the Ethiopian government continues to ignore the needs of downstream communities in its rush to develop its resources.”

February 7, 2017

Nile Basin Water Journalists, Researchers Excited By a UNESCO-IHE Project Targeting Bringing Them Together

Fredrick Mugira
February 07, 2017

Dr. Emanuele Fantini, the Project Manager, Open Water Diplomacy Lab in the middle with officials from project partner organisations

Dr. Emanuele Fantini, the Project Manager, Open Water Diplomacy Lab in the middle with officials from project partner organisations

For over 20 years Ishraga Abbas has practiced professional journalism in Sudan – one of the most water-stressed countries on the earth – she has had an ambiguous relationship with water researchers.

She actually does not remember teaming up with any water researcher to work on a water story based on the researcher’s findings. In the answer to the obvious question – why hasn’t she been collaborating with water researchers? She says: “Some researchers shy away from journalists. They prefer communicating their findings to their fellow researchers only.”

This ambiguous relationship can perhaps even trace its roots back to journalists. Some journalists misrepresent the researchers’ facts; lack exposure to water issues or simply are not interested in covering the multifaceted water issues.

This subsequently manifests itself, as neglected coverage of water stories. But, a new project –Open Water Diplomacy Lab – has kicked off targeting bringing journalists, water scientists and researchers together.

Among others, Open Water Diplomacy Lab addresses the needs and demands of water journalists in terms of facilitated access to potential sources of information – getting scientific research on water communicated in an accessible and ready to use, meeting and working with water researchers and water diplomats – and opportunities to support and promote media coverage on water issues. The project focuses on the Nile basin and it is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs “Global Partnership for water and development”.

“First, we are going to study how Nile issues are communicated in both mainstream and social media in Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. Building on the research findings we will develop join training activities for journalists and scientists coming from the Nile countries. Finally, they will be pulled together to work at original projects to promoted shared narratives about the Nile, overcoming the mainstream national interest perspective” explains Emanuele Fantini, Senior Researcher at UNESCO-IHE and project coordinator.

He was speaking at the kick-off workshop “Mapping Nile controversies: media, science and water diplomacy” held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2017.

Now, journalists like Ishgara – who actually attended this workshop – say this project will boost the quality of water journalism in the Nile basin.

Likewise, Dagim Terefe, an Ethiopian journalist and documentary maker states that Open Water Diplomacy Lab project will help to give birth to a generation of journalists that specifically concentrate on investigating River Nile issues.

Such journalists, as Dagim notes: “Will no longer write the story of the sharing of Nile waters with a nationalistic thinking as it is now but an informed broader context that caters for other countries where the Nile meanders.”

True. This is a responsibility journalists in the Nile basin cannot simply walk away from. It makes sense to believe that journalists have a crucial role to play in ending the Nile wars between countries that share this longest river on the planet.

Actually, Wondwosen Seide, a doctoral student at Lund University in Sweden, who has been researching on the River Nile issues for the last 10 years, believes that Nile wars are: “Mainly in the media landscape than on ground.”
According to Wondwosen, this project is: “Very crucial in bridging controversies and contradicting reporting among the riparian states.”

It is no surprise that this project, will lead to a more responsive relationship between journalists and water researchers. And as Prof. Dr. Yacob Arsano of Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia argues, this project will bring journalists and researchers together to identify the real issues in the Nile discourse.

Against such a background, Open Water Diplomacy Lab will truly breed journalists that can help researchers and agencies working on the Nile to disseminate the story of the Nile.

Having story of the Nile in the media, as Dr. Wubalem Fekade, the head of the Social Development and Communication Unit at the Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office (ENTRO) of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) based in Addis Ababa contends, would: “Help decision and policy makers in the Nile basin to make very enlightened and bold decisions that contribute to sustainable management of the river.”

It is easy to understand that water is a strategic resource for livelihoods. This is the reason why Atta el-Battahani, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Khartoum contends that: “It is important that we know about it so that we can manage it very well for the benefit of the people.”

February 6, 2017

Opinion Piece: The World without Beans

Dr. Robin Buruchara,
Director of the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA)

February 06, 2017

I, like millions of others in Africa, can’t imagine what it would be like to live without beans.
Venture onto any small farm in Uganda at meal time, and I can guarantee you that you will find beans on your plate.

Come to think of it, venture onto any smallholder farm, low income urban home or boarding school across Africa at meal time, and you are more likely than not to find beans or some kind of pulse on your plate.

And that’s despite the most severe drought that parts of the continent have seen in decades. Rains have been late or not come at all; water scarcity has devastated harvests, and incomes have been crippled.

Yet beans remain a staple in the African diet, for more reasons than one. They’re inexpensiveand easy to grow, with seeds sourced from neighbours or family members. They’re nutritious: high in protein, fibre, carbohydrates, folic acid, iron and zinc.

Beans remain a staple in the African diet

Beans remain a staple in the African diet

Our studies in Rwanda, for instance, show eating iron-fortified beans can actually reverse anemia and iron deficiency.

They come in many shapes, sizes, colors and tastes. In many countries they a good source of income as they are easy to sell. And farmers know beans are a good bet to plant, because if most of their harvest fails and they can’t sell anything – at least they have some food at home.

That’s why the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), works with national bean programs to strengthen cropping systems across 30 countries in Africa.

But growing more beans is not a panacea for tackling malnutrition, improving soil fertility and improving incomes. And, significant challenges block the road to improve production.

Despite the prominence of beans in the local diet and their versatility, the production and improvement of beans is not as high a priority in agricultural and nutritional policies as it ought to be. Their nutritional benefits are not incorporated into nutrition programs; their ability to combat climate change and make farmers’ fields more resilient are not spelled out in climate policy.

It’s unlikely that farmers throughout sub-Saharan Africa – where nitrogen is a commonly lacking crop nutrient – know that beans and other pulses can be used as an alternative or complementary source of nitrogen.They convert atmospheric nitrogen into nutrients the plant can use, by-passing problems associated with excessive fertilizer use – including water and air pollution, not to mention cost.

They might not know which beans can be sold for a good income twice a year at the local market – especially important for women, who traditionally control earnings from the crop. They might not know which varieties can tackle anemia, or improve soil health.

They probably don’t know that beans use less water and energy compared to most other protein sources, and that they are also relatively drought resilient compared with other crops.

This needs to change. These are vital factors for farmers in Africa, who must prepare for more drought, longer dry seasons and shorter spells of unpredictable rainfall. Until our agricultural systems become fully irrigated, our farmers need more resilient crops, and beans are an excellent case in point.

In too many places, new bean varieties and agronomic packages don’t reach farmers or advisory services. To inform farm-scale decision making and agricultural policy, we need to spread the word about the full set of impacts that can be felt by integrating pulses into cropping systems.

It’s true: we do need more research into which beans fit within specific cropping systems.

Agronomic management is a central pillar of pulse production that relies on developing options suited to local contexts. Yield and environmental benefits of pulse production vary widely across agro-ecological contexts.

But already we have evidence to show the yield increases farmers can expect in their fields; the extra income they put into their pockets, and the huge nutritional benefits they can gain from eating beans.

What remains to be seen is how the private sector and public sector can work together to make sure better beans get to more people. To make sure farmers growing them can make more money from them; or feed their families more nutritious diets with them.

We’re tackling these challenges head on. And raising awareness about how exactly beans contribute to our welfare this Global Pulse Day, is among the many routes we can take to beat them.

February 3, 2017

Access to Credit and Technology Can Improve Crop Yield among Smallholder Farmers: UN University Report Confirms

Dagim Terefe
February 3, 2017

Several farmers in Africa lack access to credit and technology

Several farmers in Africa lack access to credit and technology

A study supported by the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) confirmed that access to credit and technology can increase crop yield among smallholder farmers in Africa.

The research findings, reported in the Institute’s working paper entitled “Crop Yield Volatility among Smallholder Farmers” revealed that smallholder farmers who had access to credit obtained an increased yield of 35.5 percent per acre compared to their counterparts who did not have access to credit.

Similarly, the results showed that smallholder farmers who adopted farming technologies such as improved seeds and fertility-restoring technologies like organic manure, had about 65.7 percent increase in yields per acre than farmers who did not adopt any farming technology.

The research, led by Dr. James Atta Peprah, explored factors that influence crop yield volatility among rural and urban smallholder farmers in Ghana.

According to Dr. Peprah and the research team, the findings confirm the significant roles that credit and yield-raising technologies such as improved seed varieties, fertility-restoring and conservation technologies can play in improving the yield of rural smallholder farmers.

He noted that “the results back calls to make credit available to rural farmers to purchase farming inputs so as to increase their productivity”.

The study therefore calls on policy makers to strengthen existing agricultural policies to target reduction of the cost of credit for smallholder farmers so as to enhance their access to credit.

It also admonishes financial institutions to put in place special packages for farmers as well as measures to ensure that funds given out to farmers for agricultural activities are not diverted for other purposes.
In addition to access to credit, the paper calls for education and training of smallholder farmers, especially by Agriculture Extension Officers, on the use of technology.

More specifically, the study is advocating for farmers to be trained and advised to adopt yield-raising technologies such as organic manure, improved seeds suitable for local conditions, and modern agricultural machinery to facilitate their farming activities for poverty reduction.

February 3, 2017

Ethiopia: Why Conservation of Wetlands Makes Sense

Dagim Terefe
February 3, 2017

As the world celebrated the 2017 World Wetlands Day on Thursday, February 2 2017, the focus this time around was on the role played by wetlands in reducing the impact of natural disasters. Defined as land areas that are flooded with water, either seasonally or permanently, wetlands are said to be a natural buffer against disasters. However, no governmental and nongovernmental bodies have been observed in celebrating this year’s World Wetlands Day in Ethiopia.

According to Ramsar Convention Secretariat wetlands are defined as: “Areas of marsh, fen, peat land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water, the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres.”

wetlands-day

It is obvious that Ethiopia exhibits a wide range of geologic formations and climatic conditions which create numerous wetland ecosystems including 12 rivers, eight major lakes, and many swamps and floodplains.

Natural resource researchers list a total of 77 wetlands in Ethiopia and the country of Eritrea, finding that Ethiopian wetlands span a 13,699 km2 area. Even though an exhaustive inventory of wetlands is not done yet, wetlands are estimated to cover about 2% of the country’s land coverage. Ethiopia is often referred to as the “water tower of Africa,” as Ethiopia spans an entire watershed area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean.

Despite their small area coverage, wetlands in Ethiopia are among the most productive ecosystems, and have immense economic, social, and environmental benefits. However, there is little or no awareness of the current status, threats, or values of Ethiopian wetlands, or even the need for their conservation and sustainable utilization.

Although there are individuals in various organizations with various expertise and awareness, no coordination exists between these organizations for the conservation, management, and wise use of wetlands in Ethiopia. At another scale, the mandates of stakeholder institutions to address wetland issues are not clearly defined. As a result, there is no entry point for one to initiate any effective wetland undertaking at the moment.

According to Tadessse Amsalu (PhD), researcher, wetlands provide with various benefits to global ecosystems and local communities. They are vital sources of water and fodder, particularly during dry season and in times of drought, to both domestic and wild animals.

Wetlands also serve as important sources of food, construction and fuel wood, raw materials for making household furniture, fodder, and medicine to rural communities. Poor rural households, particularly women, rely on wetlands for additional income to their families. Hence, wetlands contribute significantly to efforts aimed at poverty reduction and food self-sufficiency. Growing number of people in Ethiopia, in both rural and urban areas, depend on wetland resources for their survival.

Many peasant farmers in the western parts of the country make their living from wetlands. Communities who live around the wetlands in the Rift Valley lakes, and Lake Tana benefit a lot from fishing and irrigation farming.

According to Amsalu (PhD), wetlands serve to slow down storm flood, trap sediments, protect property damage in downstream, and the siltation of dams. Studies also reveal that wetlands have a role in ameliorating adverse climatic variations. As scientific understanding of wetlands has increased, more subtle goods and services have become apparent. Wetlands have been described both as “the kidneys of the landscape”, because of the functions they can perform in the hydrological and chemical cycles, and as “biological supermarkets” because of the extensive food webs and rich biodiversity they support.

Notwithstanding their diverse services and values, the misconceptions on wetlands have led people to consider them as waste lands that are infested by malaria and other vectors, Amsalu stressed.

The loss of ecosystem services of wetlands can have both economic and environmental consequences. While rates of wetland loss are documented for the developed world, the limited study of these ecosystems in Ethiopia leaves majority with little to say.

Wetlands serve a variety of important ecological functions including recharging groundwater supplies and trapping floodwaters

Wetlands serve a variety of important ecological functions including recharging groundwater supplies and trapping floodwaters

Although wetlands provide wide ranging social, economic, and environmental benefits, because of mismanagement and inappropriate utilization, Amsalu(PhD) noted that, several of them have either disappeared or are on the verge of drying out globally. He mentioned out that recent total drying up of Lake Alemaya and the precarious existence of Lake Abijata as clear evidences of the looming danger on wetland ecosystem. Unless the necessary management and conservation strategy is in place, the disappearance of more wetlands appears to be unavoidable, he stressed.

Ethiopia’s economic growth and development put growing demands on the river system and the basin’s resources. Wetlands are key natural environmental assets providing crucial ecosystem services that support livelihoods and socio-economic development in the basin. Their role in mitigating climate change and supporting climate resilience as well as safeguarding water, food and energy security is currently threatened through their insufficient protection and management.

According to Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), the Nile Basin is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change owing to a multiplicity of factors. Basin communities have limited ability to cope with the negative impacts of climate variability. There is scientific consensus that the region can expect an increase in frequency and severity of extreme events like floods, droughts, and heat waves, and an intensification of natural variability.

The socio-economic consequences of climate change in the basin will be severe and exacerbate the impacts of existing challenges. These include, among others, negative impacts on agriculture, fisheries and livestock, with strong implications for food security and future economic growth. Hence, according to NBI’s Wetland Management Strategy, member states need to cooperate in order to tackle the existing threats and ensure sustainable socio-economic development is crucial.

On the other hand, recognizing the value of wetlands in the livelihood of local communities as well as in sustaining a productive ecosystem and biodiversity, Ethiopia is in the process of developing a protocol consistent with the Ramsar Convention and also has drafted a National Wetland Policy awaiting approval of the law makers. A number of National and Regional Wetland Awareness creation and consultative workshops have been carried out in Ethiopia to attract the attention and win the will of policy makers on wetlands management.

Therefore, organizations such as the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organization, the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society, the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change; various scholars from Universities and research institutions, the Ethiopian Wetland Research Programme (EWRP) and the Ethio-Wetlands and Natural Research Association (EWNRA) should keep their efforts to promote the importance of wetlands and.

January 29, 2017

Africa Goes Online With Water Sector and Sanitation Reporting

WaterSan Perspective Reporter
January 29, 2017

For every £1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of £4 is returned in increased productivity

For every £1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of £4 is returned in increased productivity

Ahead of the upcoming 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union to be held on 30th and 31st January 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) has activated the online portal of the continent’s water sector and sanitation reporting system.

The new Pan African Monitoring and Reporting System serves as a platform to report progress on the implementation of the AU Heads of States and Government Sharm el Sheikh Commitments to accelerate the achievement of the Africa Water Vision 2025, as well as the global high level political commitments on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on water and sanitation.

Considered as one of the most ambitious attempts at tracking sectoral progress, the system represents Africa’s readiness to learn from past mistakes in monitoring the implementation of the MDGs as well as efforts being made to attain Africa’s Agenda 2063.

Speaking on the successful activation, the AMCOW President and Minister for Water and Irrigation, Tanzania, Engr. Gerson Lwenge stated: “The AMCOW Monitoring and Reporting System helps to address Africa’s longstanding challenges in producing harmonised water and sanitation monitoring data.”

Engr. Lwenge recalled that lack of credible national and regional water sector and sanitation monitoring and reporting systems in Africa was widely recognised as a critical constraint to making informed policy and investments decisions on the development and effective use of water resources and sanitation in the continent.”

Commenting, the AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Rhoda Peace Tumusiime said: “Ongoing actions such as this ensures Africa’s readiness to monitor and report on progress towards achieving the SDGs while providing a great opportunity to establish baselines not just for the global indicator framework, but also for the African commitments for which efforts to monitor progress towards attainment are constrained by the lack of baseline data.”

Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture

Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture

The System developed by the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) working with the Commission of the African Union captures the harmonised monitoring and reporting indicators for the continent and links with other global monitoring and reporting processes.

The AMCOW Executive Secretary, Dr Canisius Kanangire believes that: “The system provides African Member States an opportunity to own and manage the water sector and sanitation data.”

Dr Kanangire reiterated that the issue of water sector and sanitation monitoring and reporting gained momentum in July 2008 with the AU Sharm El-Sheikh Declaration requesting AMCOW to report annually on the state of the continent’s water resources and sanitation to the Summit.

The web-based Reporting system was developed with funding from the African Water Facility (AWF), and supported by the M&E Task Force, the German Cooperation as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and with technical assistance from UNEP-DHI. The highlight of the portal which can be accessed at http://www.africawat-sanreports.org is the 2016 Status Report of 42 African member states submitted using an online reporting framework. It also contains the 2013 and 2014 data submitted by Member States using a temporary paper based template.

January 1, 2017

Feature: Sudan Struggles To Improve Access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Ishraqa Abbas
Khartoum, 01 January, 2017

Sudan’s sanitation sector (safe drinking water and adequate sewage disposal) is faced with serious challenges that deem it difficult to attain this sector’s strategic objectives. One of these objectives was raising the number of persons with access to clean and safe drinking water to 82 percent and access to hygiene services to 67 percent by the end of 2016, as stipulated in the national strategy for poverty reduction.

At the moment one out of three persons has access to clean safe water and one out of three persons does not have a sewage disposal service. About 50 % of the country’s primary schools, in rural areas in particular, do not have sources of clean drinking water nor sewage systems.

Lack of safe drinking water is one of the world's leading problems affecting more than 1.1 billion people globally. Most of these live in Africa.

Lack of safe drinking water is one of the world’s leading problems affecting more than 1.1 billion people globally. Most of these live in Africa.

According to the strategy, the clean water and sewage disposal challenges include inadequate implementation and management and absent coordination among the administrative units of this sector. There is also a shortage in the resources needed for investment in the provision of and the sustenance of water and sewage services supplies, added to the absence of public awareness about the water and sewage issues and the poor intervention procedures.

The sanitation sector is suffering an acute shortage of funding. Very little funding is allocated for drinking water and sewage disposal services at both the federal and regional levels. Federal spending on these services stands at a meager 0.5 -1 % of the spending on infrastructure.

The National Capital Khartoum suffers from recurrent water supply cutoffs. Of late, the Director of the Khartoum State Water Corporation, Engineer Khalid Ali Khalid had announced some plans to reduce water cutoffs as well as a medium term plan and a strategic plan to obtain all drinking water from Nile water stations, instead of bore water.

Eng. Khalid said the Khartoum State has 11 Nile water stations producing 48 % of the National Capital’s water supply, in addition to 1667 boreholes producing 45 %. Both sources produce an overall 1.5 million cubic meters of water per day, while the actual need is 2 million cubic meters.

Water has a tremendous bearing on the situation of poverty in Sudan as the majority of local rural communities depend in their livelihoods on water for their livestock and to irrigate their small domestic farms.

Scarcity of water has adverse effects on education in rural areas, because children have to spend a lot of time to bring water to their homes. This leads the children either to refrain from going to school or quit education after enrollment.

Poor water sources incur diseases, among children in particular. Results of a basic probe indicate an obvious link between an increase in access to improved water supply and the availability of sanitation facilities on the one hand and a decline in infections with diarrhea in Sudan. Scarcity of water may oblige families to spend 50% of their income to buy water from vendors.

The importance of water increases when water is connected with tribal feuding. A lot of tribal clashes are directly connected with the scarcity of water sources, in particular between pastoralists and sedentary farmers.

The document and report authors, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning Consultant al-Fatih Ali Siddig and World Bank consultant Fareed Hassan, reaffirm the vitality of funding for this sector as an important vehicle for challenging these difficulties and for achieving the aspired objectives embodied in the Millennial Developmental Goals, hand in hand with the rehabilitation and replacement of the aging infrastructure of the water and sewage systems as a result of the absence of adequate investment and the destruction of utilities in zones of unrest.

The authors say it is of paramount importance to strive to merge the water and sewage systems with other sectors; foremost health, nutrition and education. The schools and health and nutrition centers constitute useful inlets for such interventions.

Institutional reform aimed at sustainable water facilities is one of the preoccupations and worries that should be taken into consideration, say the authors. The specification of roles and responsibilities among federal, regional and municipal authorities and with the local communities should be clear with respect to the management, operation and sustainability of projects.

The strategy for Gradual Poverty Reduction has recommended a lot of procedures, including the rehabilitation of water and sewage facilities, the construction of new facilities, the enhancement of health awareness and the enhancement of capacity building and training.

Development of the energy, electricity , water resources and mining sectors had had a lion’s share in the funds earmarked for development in the country in the 2016 budget which is about to expire. The energy, water and minerals sectors had obtained U.S.D 4 billion from the total of the new budget ,estimated at U.S.D 10.2 billion, U.S.D 4.6 billion of it in local currency and U.S.D 5.1 billion in foreign exchange. The water projects include the Upper Atbara and Seteet dam projects (now under construction) and the projected Dal and al-Shiraig dams.

Sudan suffers a clear shortage of pure water in its rural districts. The states of Western Sudan are the most to suffer from drinking water crisis, particularly in the summer. That is due to the absence of water sources other than boreholes which dry up after sometime. As well, inability to store rain water is responsible for water shortage in that part of the country.

Minister of Water Resources, Irrigation and Electricity Mu’taz Musa said his ministry is planning 5083 water harvesting projects in the countryside, in collaboration with the Water Corporation, in implementation of President Omar al-Bashir’s directive to eliminate thirst countrywide.

Musa said his ministry had surveyed all the country’s villages and neighborhoods to this effect.
Women and children in rural areas of Western Sudan devote a lot of time to fetch water from remote areas. These long shuttles after water adversely affect their health and safety.

The Sudanese Government and the United Nations had announced the allocation of $ one billion for water funding. The announcement was made during a conference on water problems in Darfur, held in Khartoum in 2011.

Some 65 water projects are to be funded over six years within this endeavor. The projects cater for drinking water, sewage systems and projects for integrated rural development in the domains of agriculture, livestock and the environment.

As part of this endeavor, work is now underway in the implementation of the Wadi al-Koo’ for water harvesting in North Darfur. The locals have high expectations about this project that extends for 500 KM from Sarafaya area North-West of al-Fashir down to GoozBina, South- West of al-Fashir. The project is hoped to enhance the livelihoods of the citizens and resolve the scarcity of resources , considered one of the strongest causes of civil strife in that region.

Unclean water and a lack of basic sanitation are undermining efforts to end extreme poverty and disease in Africa.

Unclean water and a lack of basic sanitation are undermining efforts to end extreme poverty and disease in Africa.

The Wadi al-Koo’ project is being implemented with EU support , in implementation of an EU commitment announced during the international donor conference for the rehabilitation of Darfur, held in Doha, Qatar, in April 2013.

The project’s integrated management official in the United Nation’s Environment Programmer (UNEP) said his agency was concerned with improving the natural habitats and the promotion and good exploitation of integrated management to maintain ecological balance.

He said the area of project, that neighbors al-Bashir, is densely populated. He said the project is capable of promoting natural resources management systems and of boosting them with suitable levels of scientific and technical analysis. It can also help with consolidating livelihoods and techniques of natural resources management at the community level, with a view to using and applying them in other districts.

Housewife and project resident Um Kalthoom Adam (aged 37) said: “We and our children will be happy to produce our food all by ourselves, herd our livestock and access clean water with ease.”

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