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Water and the Development of Africa

Past, Present, and Future

Kwadwo A. Sarfoh

This book examines Africa’s water resources from pre-historic times to the present, illustrating how Africans and their rulers formulated water management systems to support water-sector activities including irrigation, livestock raising, fishing, river transportation, industry, and the generation of hydropower so crucial to the continent’s socio-economic transformation of its communities.
The recent increasing demand for water by Africa’s growing population makes it clear that new water management strategies are necessary for the continent to benefit from sustained development. In the face of ongoing water shortages caused by reduced rainfall, frequent droughts, and global warming, new political and economic arrangements are essential to ensure cooperative use of available water resources. Kwadwo A. Sarfoh argues that such arrangements will inevitably bring peace to countries that share river basins.
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Chapter IV Water in the Formation of the Civilizations of Africa


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Chapter IV

Water in the Formation of the Civilizations of Africa

The primary contribution of Africa to the history of human development and civilization is no longer in dispute. Available evidence now points to the continent as having played host to diverse cultures and striking civilizations, particularly those that emerged in the valleys of the Nile and Niger Rivers. While much is now known about these cultures and civilizations, precious little is known about the environments in general and the natural resources in particular which facilitated and nourished them. Water, however, is arguably the most important resource, as surely it created the conditions necessary for the role played by the continent as a major contributor to human history. This chapter examines how water was instrumental in shaping Africa’s place in human civilization. It begins with an examination of the basis for the continent’s designation as the home of humankind.

In his theory of evolution proposed in 1871, Charles Darwin postulated that Africa was likely the birthplace of humankind (Fage 1974, Iliffe 1995, Erhet 2002). This suggestion was met with skepticism and ← 41 | 42 → controversy, partly for religious reasons and partly on account of European notions of racial superiority. In the last five decades, however, research findings in human paleontology, with its focus on the discovery of ancient bones and tools, have produced a profound transformation of thought regarding pre-history and the notion of Africa lying at the heart of...

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