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

A Week with Cocoa Farmers in Ghana’s Eastern Region

By Jenna Farineau

It’s unusually hot for this time of year. It reaches almost 40 degrees Celsius every day and the rains are few. Now, it’s not unusual for Ghana to have such intense heat or lack of constant rains, but this is something concerning. The end of February/beginning of March generally marks the start of the rainy season here, and it is welcomed with deep appreciation from farmers. Because there isn’t proper infrastructure to transport water to farms in most of the rural areas, these farmers depend on the rains that come every year – their cocoa trees especially. The Eastern, Western, and Brong Ahafo regions of Ghana are top producers of cocoa and depend the most on this rainy season as cocoa trees need a lot of water to produce decent yields. Continue reading “A Week with Cocoa Farmers in Ghana’s Eastern Region”

Land Use at COP22: What Happened and What’s Next?

By Sara Velander, Jenna Farineau, and Elaina Burress. 

After the final text of the Paris Agreement was adopted mid-December 2015, several land-focused organizations analyzed the different ways land use and agriculture are positioned in the agreement, in order to identify the future trajectory of land use in international climate policy. According to Climate Focus, the Agreement made specific references to land use in various articles including Article 5 on forests, and a reference to food production in Article 2. However, these are merely recognizing land use in the agreement and have no binding provisions as of yet. Where land use is likely to have the biggest role is in the accounting of emissions and removals in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), one of the few binding obligations of the Paris Agreement. Continue reading “Land Use at COP22: What Happened and What’s Next?”

[Earth] member delivers SBSTA Closing Plenary Intervention at COP22

At every COP meeting, constituencies have the opportunity to address opening and closing plenaries through interventions. The closing of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice closed today at COP22, and a member of our COP22 delegation, Jenna Farineau, gave the speech on behalf of the UNFCCC youth constituency (special thanks and shoutout to all the people who worked on the intervention behind the scenes: Laura Berry, Caroline Jeanmaire, Amalie Cordes, and Jenna Farineau).

You can watch her speech here at 1:13:00 and find the transcript below.

Continue reading “[Earth] member delivers SBSTA Closing Plenary Intervention at COP22”

You Take Her Land – a Reflection on Gender, Agriculture and False Solutions

by Aneesa Khan

What does it mean to be a person on the frontlines of a microcosm whose climate is undergoing a dramatic metamorphosis for the worst? It often means a loss of home, land, identity, security, and human rights. But, what does it mean if this person also never truly owned the land they worked on or the home they lived in, what if their identity was continuously oppressed, what if their sense of security was highly dependent on the actions of others, and what if they were never fully allowed to have the human rights they deserved? In short – what does it mean to be some of the most vulnerable amongst the most vulnerable?

Continue reading “You Take Her Land – a Reflection on Gender, Agriculture and False Solutions”