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Financing the African Water Revolution

by Sara Löwgren

Stockholm World Water Week – August 26th  2018

During the first day of the annual World Water Week, one of the most anticipated sessions was the Falkenmark Symposium. In the crowded conference room, scientists, politicians, the World Bank, ambassadors, development organizations, technical experts, and many more gathered to discuss the African Water Revolution. More importantly, to discuss the finance of the African Water Revolution.

The African Water Revolution is how Africa will meet the present and future challenge of rapid population growth, lack of irrigation water, and increasing food insecurity and hunger.

While the term can refer to different aspects, including WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene), the Falkenmark Symposium focused on the green water revolution. Green water is water that is found in the soil and it is the only water, as Professor Malin Falkenmark herself pointed out, that plants can utilize. Without green water, plants dry up and subsistence farmers and whole nations lose their source of food. Green water comes from rainwater and when left alone, up to 50% of the precipitation in Africa is lost to evaporation. Rainwater collection and storage, the core of the African Water Revolution, thus holds massive, untapped potential.

But there is a mismatch between the water that is used for agriculture and the water that receives funding. Professor Johan Rockström remarked that while 95% of agriculture in Africa is done using green water, blue water projects (such as drilling wells or treating water from lakes and rivers) receive about 90% of the funding. The rainwater projects are usually very small scale and the Falkenmark panelists suggested the financing organizations prefer larger projects, like typical blue water project, because they are more profitable and projects can usually demonstrate security and a credit history. Most subsistence farmers lack financial history and therefore struggle to receive investments.

The panelists suggested different ways of overcoming the challenge, ranging from microfinance to domestic tax revenues. But, besides some comments on philanthropic contributions from the Rockefeller foundation, a problematic assumption burdened the conversation. Dr. Belay Begashaw, who delivered the closing remark, shone light on it: almost all solutions discussed seemed to assume that it is up to the individual countries to raise funds for the green water revolution. It makes very little sense to demand already poor countries, where only a low percentage of the population have formal jobs that generate income and tax revenue, to increase domestic investments.

Thinking about financing the African Water Revolution through a climate change lens, it becomes very clear that industrialized countries must step up and take their ‘polluter-pays’ responsibility seriously. Due to climate change, most of Africa can expect future dramatic changes to precipitation patterns. Drought, famine, and hunger due to greenhouse gases they did not emit. It is great that so much technology and knowledge is available for rainwater harvest, but now it is time for industrialized countries to step up to the challenge of financing the African Water Revolution.

 

follow parts of the World Water Week here!

photo by Adam Cohn “Storm is Brewing” Creative commons on flickr.com

Climate Change: a post-development and post-colonial exploration

My interest in climate justice has been constant through my four years at College of the Atlantic (COA). During my second, third and fourth years I was part of the COA delegations that attended the UN climate negations. In addition, I did my internship at the National University of Mexico in the Political and Social Sciences Faculty where I did research on different ways to promote renewable energy from a public policy perspective.

While attending these spaces, I realized that many of the so-called “climate solutions” assumed particular economic and political goals. It was easy to identify a strong developmental agenda engrained in the climate projects discussed, proposed, and financed at the UN space. With this in mind, for my undergraduate thesis (Senior Project) I decided to explore the UNFCCC discourse on Climate Solutions through the lenses of post-development and post-colonial theory. Read more…

No se trata solo de lo que decimos sino de quien escucha

Original by Andrea Fontana, translated into Spanish by Maria Sanchez Esteban

El primer dia en la COP 23. Con la oportunidad de dirigirnos a la sesión plenaria de apertura de los Órganos subsidiarios en la conferencia, en pleno frenesí, redactamos una declaración en representación de la coalición Climate Justice Now. Nos enfocamos en pérdidas y daños y urgimos que las naciones desarrolladas orienten sus acciones hacia el cumplimiento de sus promesas a países en vías de desarrollo (nada particular ni muy radical- simplemente queremos que se cumplan estas promesas). También demandamos que se reconocieran las pérdidas y los daños causados a la fecha por el cambio climático y que las soluciones a esta crisis climática no se dirigieran por el sector privado (léase capitalismo). #COPitalismkills (El COPitalismo mata). El siguiente texto es una transcripción del discurso con el que alce mi voz por miles de miembros de Climate Justice Now:

 Gracias su presidencia, mi nombre es Andrea Fontana, miembro de Earth in Brackets y Climate Justice Now.

Presidente, delegados

Con las perdidas por catastrofes naturales acumulandose año tras año y con el tifón Damrey causando estragos en Vietnam en estos mismos instantes, es imposible ignorar que las pérdidas y los daños son una realidad para estas comunidades HOY. Si queremos ofrecer una oportunidad real a las poblaciones afectadas, necesitamos incorporar mecanismos de pérdida y daño permanentemente a la agenda de esta conferencia y necesitamos aclarar los pasos que nos llevaran al fondo de financiamiento y apoyo de 100 mil millones de dólares. Read more…

Reclaim Power 2018 Demands

This morning civil society from across the globe welcomed party negotiators to the COP23 venue with Reclaim Power’s demands that urge governments to start taking action to limit warming to 1.5˚C without destroying the livelihoods of those we are trying to protect.

Reclaim Power's eight demands outside the entrance to COP 23

Reclaim Power’s eight demands outside the entrance to COP 23. (Photo Credit, Claire Miranda)

Read more…

The Big Fights at COP23

Written by Thule van den Dam, Aura Silva Martinez, and Rachael Goldberg

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COP23 (Fiji) in Bonn officially started today and we are caught between a rock and a hard place. The Paris Agreement is a watery, empty promise, and a Polish presidency for COP24 is promising to be as dark as the ‘Coal Summit’ that will be hosted at the same time. To hold developed countries accountable to anything, however, this watery, empty promise needs implementation and clarity, never straying from the principles of the convention — common but differentiated responsibility. We need these footholds established this year: we ran out of time long ago.

So, what are the struggles up ahead in the next two weeks and beyond?!

Read more…