The blog of Burness Communications

Water from the Nile – Is there enough for everybody?

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When South Sudan became an independent country, it also became the eleventh country to share the world’s longest river, the Nile.  So many nations drawing from one source of water inevitably results in political and environmental complications. But a new book published by the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF is a Burness client) last month argues that the Nile river has plenty of water to go around, and more than enough to support a vibrant agriculture sector.

Researchers—including hydrologists, economists, agriculturalists and social scientists—pooled their data and found that a stronger focus on on-farm water management approaches (rather than just large-scale irrigation schemes), coupled with better management policies and cooperation among countries, could provide the best path forward for the region’s 200 million people.

The book launch in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia  on November 5th drew media attention across East Africa. Additionally, an op-ed in the Financial Times’ “This is Africa” magazine by the International Water Management Institute’s Dr. Vladimir Smakhtin, one of the book’s authors, raised the book’s profile outside the region.

In summarizing the conclusions, Dr. Smakhtin pointed to a number of accessible solutions. “Rainwater, “ he wrote, “is the source of all water flowing into through the Nile basin. Farmers have yet to effectively tap into the rainwater, which is some 20 times greater than the actual river flow. Tapping groundwater stores for irrigation, which would help overcome variability in rainfall amounts, also has yet to take root in the Nile and across the African continent.’

“The Nile, the longest river in the world,” he noted at the end of the piece, “stretches deep into the African continent. The problems of its people do not have to stretch as far.”


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