Sunday, December 28, 2008

African ministers say share water to combat hunger

African ministers say share water to combat hunger

'African states lack the resources to deal alone with climate change and must share water better to feed growing populations, government ministers said at a water conference in Libya on Wednesday.

The world's poorest continent has failed to feed a fast-growing population due to under-investment, bad farm management and more frequent droughts and floods, leaving it hooked on food imports.

The cost of those imports soared to $49.4 billion in 2008 from $10.5 billion in 2005 as world prices jumped, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

That has put a massive strain on state budgets in countries that subsidize imports to make them more affordable.

Of 36 countries grappling with food crises, 21 are in Africa and the World Food Program estimates that nearly a sixth of the world's population -- almost 1 billion people -- are hungry.

African officials meeting over three days in the Libyan city of Sirte said governments should redouble a 2003 promise to commit 10 percent of national budgets to boosting farm output, according to their final declaration.

With droughts and flash flooding increasingly common, they called for more modern irrigation systems that store water and channel it where and when it is needed.

They agreed to seal more region-wide deals to share the water stored in rivers, lakes and underground.

Cooperation would be strengthened on weather forecasting and early warning systems to minimize the impact of drought, desertification, floods and pests.

"Together we must find concrete and effective measures to address the issues of water in Africa, in a spirit of shared responsibility," Jacques Diouf, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, told delegates.

The ministers also decided to establish continent-wide information systems to better coordinate farm output and make commodity trade more efficient.

The skills and the resources to make Africa self-sufficient exist if only governments would cooperate on managing their water, delegates said.'
And not only to combat hunger, but to combat war. This is the most crucial environmental crisis facing Africa right now: water scarcity. It is such because it is bringing with it hunger, famine, malnutrition, drought, disease, and war. A scarcity of water combined with a scarcity of education and opportunity to help the people of Africa become self sufficient is at the crux of the wars they face as well. However, so many countries in Africa are being run by corruption in order to take their resources as in the case of Sudan, that it is hard to now comprehend a pact that will allow the people the self determination they need to survive.

In my view there is also too much interference from government agencies such as the World Bank and WTO that prevent access to food and keep prices high thus perpetuating the poverty of countries in Africa that rely solely on imports of food, much of it now genetically modified in an attempt to force this technology on farmers for profit.

There is no reason why farmers in Africa cannot have access to natural seeds that will grow their own food naturally for them to stimulate the economies of their countries, save for a concerted effort by world organizations and governments to control the production and access to food and water for profit. And this I fear will become more prevalent due to climate change as we are seeing glaciers in Africa melting as well at a more rapid pace than predicted, which also puts water resources for many in jeopardy.

To come to an amicable agreement among African states to share water for agricultual purposes in an efficient way (drip irrigation particularly) is definitely a step in the right direction. The fulfillment of that goal however, is what is unclear at the moment as we see so much of Africa in the throse of turmoil, war, and corruption. Water is the key to their sustainability and must be made accessible to the poor without cost in order to allow them to be able to feed themselves and live with dignity. Water can combat hunger, war, disease, and hopelessness. It must be the lynchpin to any plan to lift Africa into a sustainable future.

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