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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 VI Water Use in Colonial Africa


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Chapter VI

Water Use in Colonial Africa


By the time of the imposition of colonial rule, both the indigenous African population and early European settlers had demonstrated a longstanding interest in the potential of water to transform communities. This interest became more pronounced as both groups became increasingly aware that all human activities require water and water, in fact, fuels all facets of life within society—from biological and economic needs to aesthetic and spiritual practices. They also became acutely aware of water scarcity not only in Africa, but in other regions of the world as well.

Armed with this knowledge, the Europeans who arrived in Africa as colonial officials recognized from the outset that the transformation they desired to bring about in their respective communities would require water not only for domestic consumption, but also for such water-sector activities as irrigation, livestock cultivation, fishing and provision of energy. The need to develop water resources was made the more obvious by prevailing climatic conditions, whereby temporal and spatial rainfall ← 81 | 82 → variability was of serious consequence to the vast semi-arid and arid regions of the continent. Thus, from the early colonial period, administrators were confronted with the question of how best to harness the continent’s tidal creeks, rivers and lakes for the socioeconomic transformation of their territories. The need for water influenced them greatly as they pursued economic policies favoring large-scale exploitation of raw materials for...

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