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Africa

Resilience in water – Of Tanzania, groundwater, and gingersnaps

Jacqueline Tront's picture

Co-authored with Mik Schulte

Teachers standing by a water pump outside a school in rural Tanzania. 


I recently spent some time traveling around rural Tanzania, trying to better understand the way the communities, cities, and regions manage their water. As we departed from the last village, we handed out cookies to the children who had gathered to watch from a distance while we toured the farms.  I can still picture the smallest boy when I gave him the last cookie; his eyes lit-up, convinced he was the luckiest of boys. 
 
In this northern part of Tanzania, near the foothills of the famous Mount Kilimanjaro, the land is fertile and farming is productive and lucrative. However, water-related conflicts color the landscape, both among farmers and between sectors. Climate change is increasing aridity, which reduces the amount of water available for drinking, farming, and eventually, hydropower production. Rainfall is becoming ever more erratic and variable which forces farmers to make riskier planting decisions, and often decimates crops with unpredicted and unmanaged flood or drought. Farmers from other, more arid, regions are pressing in to farm the fertile northern plains. Water is already over-subscribed and farmers, their communities, and the cities and businesses on whom they depend are looking for ways to survive and thrive in this new reality.

Action at scale: how to accelerate access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene in Africa

Ayat Soliman's picture

Globally, 2.4 billion people still live without access to basic sanitation – and over 760 million of these people live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Today only 27% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population has access to basic sanitation and 220 million people across the continent still practice open defecation – in some countries, this number is increasing, as service providers fail to keep pace with population growth.

A bird’s eye view: supervising water infrastructure works with drones

Pierre Francois-Xavier Boulenger's picture
Aerial drones have zoomed their way into almost every aspect of the modern world, and the development sector is no exception. In Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, drones have become an indispensable part of a major water project supported by the World Bank.

Where camels walk on water

Tesfaye Bekalu's picture

Camels can walk on water. I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. And if you don’t believe me, well, just look at the picture below to see camels walking on water in Somaliland!


Yes, it looks like sand, but there is water right underneath their hooves. This is the brilliance of sand dams and subsurface dams, where sand effectively serves as a temporary reservoir cover, protecting the precious water underneath from evaporating under the blazing sun. Sand dams provide low-cost, low-maintenance, and replicable rainwater harvesting technology.

Is shared sanitation the answer to Maputo’s sanitation challenge?

Baghi Baghirathan's picture
 
Sanitation Blocks in Charmanculo

Poor sanitation is the all too familiar story in many expanding African cities and Mozambique’s capital city Maputo is no exception. In fact, over half of the country’s urban population lack access to even basic sanitation. With an estimated 668 million city dwellers around the world not having access to safe sanitation, overcoming sanitation challenges in cities like Maputo will go a long way towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal for safe sanitation (SDG 6.2).
 

Reaching for the SDGs: the untapped potential of Tanzania’s water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector

George Joseph's picture


When it comes to economic success, Tanzania offers a model for the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth has averaged 6.5 percent per year over the past decade, and between 2007 and 2012 nearly a third of the poorest 40% of the population rose out of poverty. However, the progress towards improving water and sanitation access for all has not kept a similar pace.
 
A new report by the World Bank, ‘Reaching For The SDGs’ was launched by the Honorable Eng. Isack Kamwelwe, Minister of Water and Irrigation on March 20 in Dar es Salaam. In her welcome address, Ms. Bella Bird, Country Director for Tanzania, Malawi, and Burundi said, “adequate WASH is a crucial component of basic human necessities that allow a person to thrive in life”.  The report shows how water and sanitation services need to advance substantially in order to achieve much needed improvements in health and wellbeing that will help the country fulfill its true potential.  Progress in this area still has a long way to go.  

The biggest bang for our limited water and sanitation buck: can investing in small towns lead the way?

Aroha Bahuguna's picture



While the share of poor people in Sub-Saharan Africa decreased from 56 percent in 1990 to 43 percent in 2012, the region’s rapid population growth outpaced the decrease in poverty, resulting in higher number of poor people than before. More specifically, Africa’s urban population is expected to triple in size in the next half century, which is putting pressure on scarce resources in cities, exacerbated by capacity, budget and governance bottlenecks. The densely-populated areas with low levels of water and sanitation services pose a serious threat to public health – cholera epidemics have broken out in urban areas in several African countries in recent years.

Starting a marathon with a broken ankle: how poor water and sanitation sets children behind

Maximilian Leo Hirn's picture
Children in Koutoukalé, Niger

Have you ever wondered how your life chances are affected by where you were born? Odds of being born at all are already miraculously small, but only one in ten of us is born into the relative security of a high-income country. What if you are born in Niger or in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)? Before you could even walk or talk, your challenges would be daunting. That's because, despite progress, deaths of children under five years old are more than twenty times higher than in the EU and nearly ten times higher than in China.

Even if you survived, you would confront another major risk to your development: malnutrition. In Niger and DRC, almost one out of every two children is stunted. Stunting has significant and long-lasting negative effects on early childhood development, impeding physiological and mental development, and making small children more vulnerable to disease. Starting off in life stunted is akin to starting a marathon with a broken ankle.

Of pigs, pythons and population growth – setting the record straight

Maitreyi Bordia Das's picture
The Nairobi Central Business District.
Photo: Sarah Farhat/The World Bank


I am constantly startled by references to “population growth” as a cause of a number of development challenges.  Whether it’s urbanization, food security, or water scarcity, all too often “population growth” is cited as a cause for pessimism or even a reason not to strive for progress.  I can almost see Thomas Malthus grinning at me from the shadows.

It gets worse. I recently reviewed a paper where higher fertility among minorities was touted as an explanation for their poverty! A few months ago, a respected professional wrote asking why we weren’t doing more on family planning, since fertility in Africa would pretty much stymie any efforts to provide infrastructure-based services! I hear statements to this effect routinely from policy makers in charge of infrastructure ministries and projects (“how can we keep up with the population?” or “nothing we do will be enough unless we control the population”) but am always amazed when I hear them from scientists of different hues.

So I thought I’d try to set the record straight:

How small social enterprises tackle drought challenges in East Africa

Caroline Weimann's picture
Photo: Caroline Weimann/Siemens Stiftung

This past February, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta officially declared the drought in his country a national disaster. No rain had fallen for months in East Africa, causing a dire living situation.
 
Tribes migrated to find water and food, and we saw an increase in the amount and severity of conflicts, specifically between herders and owners of large farms.
 
In the cities, the situation is not much better. Nairobi’s main water supply is a dam which is currently only 20% full. The Nairobi Water Company is rationing water, and many people only have running water once a week.

Agriculture is suffering; the price of milk has risen from 40 to 65 Kenyan Shillings (KES) for half a liter in just six months. Maize meal, a staple food, has gone up nearly 40%, with the state recently announcing a subsidy for maize.

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