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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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There is mounting evidence that Africa has become more important at this stage of its history. The driving force behind this notion, no doubt, is the continent’s vast natural resource endowments. Although they hold the keys to life and prosperity of the African population, recent increased global efforts to secure these resources is raising alarm that expected benefits may not occur.

A key stimulus for writing this book comes from a recognition that water, one of Africa’s natural resources, plays a crucial role in shaping socio-economic transformation of the continent. This is because by its nature, water is one of the indispensable environmental resources whose availability can mean life and prosperity, while its lack or absence can mean death, prosperity and underdevelopment. Furthermore, access to and control of water may also be the cause of economic development and/or political conflict.

The notion that water is indispensable to human existence was shared by all the inhabitants of the continent. The reality of this, however, was strong among those Africans who inhabited in the two-thirds of the continent’s arid and semi-arid land surface, that is, the dry lands. ← XV | XVI → The characteristic unreliable rainfall, droughts that occur at shorter intervals and prevailing climate change limit availability of water required for such water-sector activities as irrigation farming, livestock raising and hydropower development. Limitations placed on those water-sector activities so crucial for life and prosperity make it necessary for proper water management strategies.

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