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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 V Rivers as Gateways to Inner Africa


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Chapter V

Rivers as Gateways to Inner Africa

Four arterial rivers dominate the drainage patterns of the African landscape: the Nile and Niger to the north and west, and the Congo and Zambezi to the center and south, respectively. In addition to these rivers, the Senegal in the west, Limpopo in the east and Orange in the southwest are major rivers in their own right. Although there is no evidence that the Africans had any comprehensive generic terms for these rivers, it is believed that it was the power of water from these rivers that transformed the ancient African world and made possible the level of cultural, social, and economic development achieved in the region at the time.

Pre-historic Africans recognized early on the opportunities afforded by these immense natural resource endowments and made use of them for their very survival within the environment. They appreciated and acted on the potential of water to transform their lives and the environments in which they found themselves. Understanding the capacity for water to spread fertile silts during the flooding season and the implications this had for the production of food crops necessary for ← 53 | 54 → their survival, they determined to live in harmony with their environments. Perhaps this is why they came to regard rivers as a basis for religious observances and rituals, and, ultimately, as a source of mysteries.

Of equal importance to some riparian ancient Africans was...

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