|According to a recent United Nations report, Africa has more than enough water to fulfil its needs – if only the water was properly harvested and managed.|
‘Africa is not water scarce,’ says the report, compiled by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). ‘The rainfall contribution is more than adequate to meet the needs of the current population several times over.’
Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director, says: ‘As we look into what Africa can do to adapt to climate change ... rainwater harvesting is one of those steps that does not require billions of dollars, that does not require international conventions first – it is a technology, a management approach, to provide water resources at the community level.’
A rainwater harvesting project in the Kisamese area of Kajiado District in south-western Kenya has solved most of the water problems experienced by the local Masai community, Agnes Loikert, a community leader from the area, told reporters. This type of project, highlighted as good practice, is precisely what The Salvation Army in Kenya is setting up.
‘Rainwater harvesting has helped women and children a lot,’ said Agnes, adding that women used to walk up to 10 kilometres every day in search of water, leaving their school-going children unattended, before the mini-reservoirs [earth pans] to conserve rainwater were installed at Kisamese village. Women now had more time to engage in other economic activities, she said.
The Kisamese project has the capacity to store more than a million litres of water, some of which the community is using to irrigate small vegetable gardens, thus enhancing the community’s food security.
‘In the popular mind, Africa is seen as a dry continent,’ said Dennis Garrity, Director-General of ICRAF, ‘but overall, it actually has more water resources per capita than Europe. However, much of Africa’s rain comes in bursts and is rapidly swept away or is never collected.
‘The time has come to realise the great potential for greatly enhancing drinking water supplies and smallholder agriculture production by harvesting more of the rainwater when and where it falls.’
According to the study, Kenya, whose current population is estimated at about 33 million people, has enough rainfall to supply the water needs of six to seven times that number. The country’s capital, Nairobi, has the capacity to provide for the water needs of a population of up to 10 million people, supplying each with 60 litres a day if rainwater were efficiently harvested, the study noted.
The current population of Nairobi is estimated at three million, with only 21,000 people served by the city’s existing water system.
‘Large-scale infrastructure can often bypass the needs of poor and dispersed populations,’ said Executive Director Steiner. ‘Widely deployed rainwater harvesting can act as a buffer against drought events for these people while also significantly supplementing supplies in cities and areas connected to the water grid,’ he added, urging African governments and international aid donors to put more resources into rainwater harvesting projects on the continent..