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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 VII Water Use and Post-Colonial Development


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Chapter VII

Water Use and Post-Colonial Development

Throughout history, the inhabitants of Africa—both its indigenous peoples and those who came to the continent as settlers—recognized water as the basis for the well-being of their societies. They also recognized that a lack of water had negative implications for their dreams of prosperity. Armed with these two facts, the new settlers learned to develop water harvesting techniques in the plains of large perennial rivers and on the shores of major lakes. In most cases, early water harvesting projects took the form of shady ditches, dams, canals and wells. As time went on, effective water management strategies were formulated to allow for the water-sector activities so crucial to socio-economic development.

Pre-colonial Africa was thus able to harness water and erect an economic structure which would help shape its civilization. Subsequently, colonial Africans came to rely on water in a greater way to improve socio-economic conditions in communities located in regions lacking adequate water supplies. ← 105 | 106 →

By the time of independence, water-sector activities had contributed significantly to the socio-economic development of Egypt, Madagascar, Morocco, South Africa and Sudan. Additional countries benefitting from similar water-sector activities included Algeria, Mali, Kenya, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.

The impetus for utilizing harvested and other bodies of water arose out of an increased need for food crops to meet the food demand of a population growing at a rate of between 3.5...

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