Water stress and water scarcity is a real issue in Africa. In the Sahel, the land and people suffer from the plague of drought, poverty and underdevelopment. Accessing water from the Senegal River is critical for energy production, irrigation for the land and palatable water.
The Sahel region will see drier years, and the Senegal River could provide necessary water to countries that need it and where basic needs will be harder to come by. Crises have occurred due to the shortage of water, such as the crisis in Darfur, which partially stemmed from disputes over water. The Senegal River can be a lifesaver for this region but there are questions that nations have over the river as to whom has the rights and control of the 1,800 KM river.
Born in 1972, The Senegal River Basin Development Organization (OMVS) created a way for countries in the region to share the river equally after years of drought. It is the only river management organization to split up a river equally. Infrastructure was put in place to help get the river water to cities such as Dakar, Nouakchott and Saint Louis. Migrants are coming back to their lands, after went to the city of Dakar. The shortage of water is coming from the lack of infrastructure and to preserve the water that is already available, rather than the shortage of water itself.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations started a project was created to help improve the infrastructure of the Senegal Basin so it can contain the available water resources to cut down on water scarcity. The project expectations are aimed to see these outcomes;
- Improved OMVS and countries’ capacities for multi-objective water resources management.
- Established hydro-economic model for the Senegal Basin and increased understanding of benefits of joint water resources management.
- Identified cross-boundary investment areas.
- Assessed trade-offs between water for energy production and water for agriculture/fisheries development.
- All of this is still an ongoing process.
Regional cooperation, as well as working with the World Bank, UN and other organizations will help the region continue to progress in the right direction. AFRICOM has stepped up security in the region due to ISGS. ISIS previously destroyed CI in the middle east and the Islamic State of the Greater Sahara could potentially do the same, which can cause instability and water being scarce in the places where it is not.
If the drought increases in the Sahel, more people will flood into the capitals, where most, if not all of the potable water comes from the infrastructure the OMVS put in place. Overcrowding puts stress on the countries capitals resources. Migration to other regions in Africa, where the land is more arable is possible, as well as the potential for migration to go into Europe due to famine.
The desert has already expanded 10% from 1920 to 2013, making nomads search south for water and grazing grounds. Improving farming productivity is needed for the region, as a source of food and has a higher income return than other public-funded sectors.
Image (Edited): T.K. Naliaka / Wikimedia Commons / CC 4.0 (link)