Saturday, August 17, 2013

Stop The Water Grab In Africa

If this land and water grab is not put to an end, millions of Africans will lose access to the water sources they rely on for their livelihoods and their lives. They may be moved out of areas where land and water deals are made or their access to traditional water sources may simply be blocked by newly built fences, canals and dikes. This is already happening in Ethiopia's Gambela, where the government is forcibly moving thousands of indigenous people out of their traditional territories to make way for export agriculture. By 2013, the government wants to remove 1.5 million people from their territories across Ethiopia.[13] As the bulldozers move into the newly acquired lands, this will become an increasingly common feature in Africa's rural areas, generating more tensions and conflicts over scarce water resources.
But the impacts will run far beyond the immediately affected communities. The recent wave of land grabbing is nothing short of an environmental disaster in the making. There is simply not enough water in Africa's rivers and water tables to irrigate all the newly acquired land. If and when they are put under production, these 21st century industrial plantations will rapidly destroy, deplete and pollute water sources across the continent. Such models of agricultural production have generated enormous problems of soil degradation, salinisation and waterlogging wherever they have been applied. India and China, two shining examples that Africa is being pushed to emulate, are now in a water crisis as a result of their Green Revolution practices. Over 200 million people in India and 100 million in China depend on foods produced by the over-pumping of water.[14] Fearing depleted water supplies or perhaps depleted profits, companies from both countries are looking now to Africa for future food production.
Africa is in no shape for such an imposition. More than one in three Africans live with water scarcity, and the continent's food supplies are set to suffer more than any other's from climate change. Building Africa’s highly sophisticated and sustainable indigenous water management systems could help resolve this growing crisis, but these are the very systems being destroyed by land grabs.
Advocates of the land deals and mega irrigation schemes argue that these big investments should be welcomed as an opportunity to combat hunger and poverty in the continent. But bringing in the bulldozers to plant water-intensive export crops is not and cannot be a solution to hunger and poverty. If the goal is to increase food production, then there is ample evidence that this can be most effectively done by building on the traditional water management and soil conservation systems of local communities. [15] Their collective and customary rights over land and water sources should be strengthened not trampled.
But this is not about combating hunger and poverty. This is theft on a grand scale of the very resources – land and water – which the people and communities of Africa must themselves be able to manage and control in order to face the immense challenges they face this century.

[13] Human Rights Watch, 2012: 'Waiting here for Death'.
[14] Fred Pearce, 'When the Rivers Run Dry'  Eden Project, 2006.

No comments: