Promoting healthy ecosystems to build resilience to climate change


Joto Africa - Managing Africa's water in a changing climate

Joto Africa Issue 2 : Managing Africa's water in a changing climate

In this issue:
- Building sand dams to conserve water (research summary)

- Conserving water through planting trees (case study in Cameroon)

- Managing water resources in the IGAD region (research summary)

- Adapting to changing rainfall patterns in Lukwanga (case study in Uganda)

- Joint management of transboundary Saharan aquifer system (research summary)

- Managing climate change in South Africa's Western Cape (research summary)

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Throughout history, African societies have experienced various climate-related events and pressures. But over the past 30 years, both drought and floods have increased in frequency and severity. The continent is
now burdened with nearly one-third of all water-related disasters that occur worldwide every year. A warmer earth may lead to many projected changes over the coming decades, including more extreme weather events, widespread drought and flooding, sea level rise and retreating glaciers. Africa has already experienced these, especially changes in rainfall patterns and rising sea levels. It will most likely experience each in greater intensity in the future; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that Africa is the most vulnerable continent to projected climate changes.

Widespread water scarcity on the African continent is expected to be further aggravated by a number of emerging threats. These include climate change, as well as an increasing population and the subsequent increasing demands for water. Around 25 African countries are expected to experience
water scarcity or water stress.

Impacts of water scarcity

Climate change has the potential to impose severe pressures on water availability and accessibility. Currently, 300 million Africans (more than 35 percent of the population) have no access to safe drinking water, and 313 million lack basic sanitation. According to the United Nations, sub-Saharan Africa (with the
exception of Uganda and South Africa) is failing to meet the Millennium Development Goal targets, to halve the number of people without access to clean water or sanitation by 2015. Climate change is expected to make it even harder to achieve these targets. Africa has the highest population growth rate
in the developing world, and food production is not keeping pace. Two of the most limiting factors to improved food production are the quality and quantity of available water resources. Rainfall variability in many regions of Africa directly affects agricultural productivity – rainfall is the most relevant climatic variable of food production in Africa. As rainfall becomes more variable, feeding Africa’s rising population will become an even greater challenge.

Disputes and conflicts over water

Since food security is directly linked to water availability and accessibility, increasing water scarcity will increase the potential for conflict within and between countries. The Darfur dispute in western Sudan stems in part from competition over water, mainly between different resource users; nomads and farmers share water and land in the region, but these are both getting increasingly meagre due to climate variability and expanding desertification.

The increasing severity and scale of impacts resulting from climate change is likely to exceed the coping capacity of many communities and countries. This situation could lead to severe socio-economic and
environmental impacts and will require additional adaptation efforts. In this second issue of Joto Afrika, the six articles and case studies presented focus on climate change and water resources, reflecting on experiences and lessons extracted from different regions in Africa.

Reviewing these lessons, the following points become clear:

- Current water management practices in Africa are unlikely to be adequate to cope with the projected negative impacts of climate change on water availability and distribution.

- Africa needs a much greater focus on increasing people’s adaptive capacity to climate variability and climate change over he long term.

-Key to improving future adaptation efforts is the incorporation of current climate variability into water-related planning and management.

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Click the image to enlarge: Community members draw water from a rock catchment in Mutomo - Kenya (ALIN, 2009)
Community members draw water from a rock catchment in Mutomo - Kenya (ALIN, 2009)
Posted: 2/22/2010 (2:55:29 AM)

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