African ministers seek billions to develop water infrastructure – UN agency

Siphon irrigation

17 December 2008 – Delegates attending a pan-African ministerial conference have welcomed a proposal attempting to secure billion-dollar commitments for building critical hydropower and agricultural irrigation systems across the continent, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today.

Speaking at the Water for Energy and Agriculture in Africa meeting in Sirte, Libya, FAO suggested convening a world summit of heads of State and government next year aimed at finding $30 billion a year for investment in the continent’s water and rural infrastructure, needed to provide food and energy for its expanding population.

Sub-Saharan Africa – already suffering from the world’s highest rate of malnourishment – needs to triple its food production by 2050 to feed a population predicted to balloon to 2 billion people, while also expected to be the hardest-hit by climate change.

In a final declaration, delegates noted that water is a key resource to economic and social development as well as to hunger and poverty eradication.

The three-day conference, which brought together ministers from 53 African countries, wrapped up today with a pledge to work together in promoting water development throughout the continent and to fully exploit Africa’s agricultural and hydropower potential.

Implementation of integrated water, agriculture and energy programmes to enhance sustainable development in Africa should be considered a priority, the declaration said, while noting that food and energy security are prerequisites for the development of Africa’s “human capital.”

While calling on donors, development partners and countries bordering on Lake Chad – once the world’s sixth largest lake but has now shrunk to a tenth of its size – to help save the lake and its basin from a “looming human and environmental disaster,” the Conference agreed to foster climate change research as well as promote the development of renewable energy and agriculture in Africa.

The conference was organized by FAO in collaboration with Libya, the African Union, the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), the African Development Bank and the Economic Commission for Africa, among others.


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