“Water is Life”, so goes the common truism, which then leads to abuse in communities that are well endowed with water and take it for granted. But how important it is to others who trek miles and miles to access a water source! To these, it does not even matter what type of water; they are interested in just water, and the choice of good clean water is a luxury.
All these questions have been highlighted in the First African Water Week forum that is being held in Tunis. The stakeholders, including the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), are pushing for more funding to develop more secure water sources, targeting not only clean and safe water for home consumption, but also seriously developing water sources for agricultural activities like irrigation, and hydropower use.
The three aspects are all important: no country can industrialise without enough and cheap power sources, and hydro electric power is still the cheapest, especially also given the fact that Africa can harness it using her abundant water resources.
Then the water used for agricultural purposes is so woefully little, given the resources that can go into developing irrigating systems. Only relatively rich countries like Egypt have harnessed and utilized irrigation methods to further their development. It is important that faced with increasing droughts and poor soils, African countries should start putting irrigation into their calculations if it is to produce enough food for its growing population.
Last but not least, clean and safe water for home use: Going by the statistics, about 340 million Africans do not get clean and safe drinking water, and about 500 million cannot have standard sanitation facilities – because of lack of water.
Sensitising the population is of paramount importance. Even without thinking about going hitech to start irrigating our fields tomorrow, we can start promoting our own homegrown technology to save ourselves. It is painful to see the amount of water that goes to waste when it rains.
All this water goes untapped, whereas we could secure it and use it in many, many ways. We could dam this water for agricultural purposes, releasing it in necessary quantities like the people of Rwagitima in the Eastern Province have done on a small scale to irrigate their rice fields. Rwanda is a hilly country – all the fast-running water should be collected for future use.
Then at a smaller level, all homes should have water tanks to harvest this rainwater running off their roofs. Even with Electrogaz water, we need to be parsimonious with our resources.