Thursday, November 27, 2008
Water Scarcity In The Sahel
Water Scarcity In The Sahel
Sitting on the shores of Lake Debo, the vast body of water at the heart of the River Niger's inland delta, the Malian village of Guidio seems well positioned to withstand the effects of drought. Unlike many other villages in the Sahel, the semi-arid region flanking the Sahara, it has an apparently plentiful supply of water on hand to raise crops and a back up if the drinking wells run dry.
Yet for Guidio's inhabitants, water is now becoming a daily concern. "Before we had enough rain and we could grow anything," says Moussa Guindo, a farmer who has lived in Guidio all his life. He gestures to the dusty ground. "When I was a child, where we're sitting was in the river. Now look: it's the middle of the village. Sometimes the rain starts, but then it doesn't last and the places where we used to be able to grow we can't anymore."
Guidio is a microcosm of the problems being felt up and down the Niger. West Africa's great waterway is a lifeline for an estimated 110 million people who rely on its annual floods to cultivate crops and raise cattle. But as the example of Guidio illustrates, the river is also fickle, and there are signs that growing human exploitation and an increasingly volatile climate are putting its future as a sustainable resource under serious threat.
Certainly, recent history suggests a grim future for those who depend on the Niger. Since the 1970s, with a few exceptional years, the region has been in the grip of a drought. Figures collated by conservation body the IUCN suggest rainfall in some parts of the Sahel have decreased by as much as 30% since the early 70s, with dramatic effects on river levels. Separate research by the Niger Basin Authority (NBA), the international body set up to manage the river's resources, shows that at Koulikoro, a town upstream from the Inland Delta, the river's flow over each of the three decades between 1970 and 2000 was on average 25% below the daily norm.
With the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicting that temperatures in the Sahel could rise by up to 0.5 degrees every decade, it would be easy to conclude that the trends of the past 30 years can only continue. But according to Jamie Skinner, a water expert with the International Institute for Environment and Development, climatologists have yet to predict with any certainty future rainfall patterns in the Sahel.
The only thing anyone can agree on is more variability," Skinner says. "There's a massive effort underway to devise a better model for studying Sahelian weather systems, but the reality is that no one really understands the West African monsoon."
Water And Land In The Sahel
Overuse of water, wasteful practices, overpopulation, and multinational inteference in agriculture have all lent to the drought being experienced in this area of Africa as well as climate change. Have we reached a tipping point in Africa? Can we stop the multi nationals such as Monsanto that seek to force GMOs on Africa to continue to kill biodiversity? This is now happening in too many places throughout the world to simply just be cyclical or coincidence.
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