From ground to growth: Can Africa's hidden water resource help secure future agricultural growth and food security
Twelve months ago a paper on Africa’s water resources made the news headlines. African agriculture, so the story went, sits atop a vast reserve of untapped water that could fuel a Green Revolution, support food security and bolster economic growth, as well as increase resilience to climate change in future decades. This attention to Africa’s ‘hidden’ resource is arguably long overdue, but do such headlines go too far? Can resource availability equate with affordable (and economically rational) access – particularly for smallholder farmers? In short, can groundwater really fuel an agrarian transformation similar to that of South Asia, but without the ‘race to the bottom’ of the continent’s aquifers?
ODI’s Water Policy Programme (WPP), the Global Water Initiative East Africa (GWI) and UEA’s Water Security Research Centre (WSRC) will host a flagship event on 21 March 2014 to mark World Water Day (22nd March). The event will bring together international experts from a range of disciplines and sector perspectives.
ODI’s Water Policy Programme (WPP), the Global Water Initiative East Africa (GWI) and UEA’s Water Security Research Centre (WSRC) will host a flagship event on 21 March 2014 to mark World Water Day (22nd March). The event will bring together international experts from a range of disciplines and sector perspectives to discuss four key themes:
The groundwater perspective: Are recent headlines about Africa’s vast groundwater potential credible? What do we know – and what don’t we know – about the development potential and management needs of groundwater resources in SSA?
The agriculture and poverty perspective: Does better land and water management, and more irrigation in particular, hold the key to ‘climate-proofing’ agriculture, raising yields and reducing rural poverty?
The financing and economic perspective: How are irrigation pathways – from smallholder farming to major multipurpose schemes - shaped by economics and institutions? Does irrigation really pay, and what kind of institutional environment is needed to support responsible and inclusive development?
Lessons from the Asian perspective: thanks to a groundwater boom, millions of farmers have improved their livelihoods and food security in South Asia and northern China. But the costs of runaway withdrawals are now hitting hard – on poorer farmers, the environment and other sectors, not least energy. What important lessons can be drawn?
The day will conclude with the launch of a new book, Water Security, Principles, Perspectives and Practices, published by Earthscan, with mini-presentations from some of the well-known authors.