27 October 2011 A United Nations report released today on the use and management of water in the Nile River basin calls for new methods to boost agricultural productivity and warns that governments must take action to keep population growth and resource degradation from intensifying poverty.
The report, which includes the results of a decade-long project led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and financed by Italy, notes that “environmental degradation, drought, weak institutions, low financial capacity, inadequate infrastructure and social instability conspire to perpetuate poverty in the region” making it essential to have a planning strategy in place.
According to FAO, the population in the Nile basin, which currently consists of some 200 million people, is expected to increase by between 61 and 82 per cent by 2030. This is of particular concern since some of the 11 countries that share the Nile – Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda – are among the poorest in the world.
As the population grows, finding new ways to use water will become even more essential to support better planning and prevent food insecurity, the report notes, adding that there is a “narrow window of opportunity for reversing the negative trends in the region.”
“Up until now, there has been very little systemic study of how the Nile’s waters are used – or could be used – to grow food, and key pieces of information that would allow for what we call ‘sound water accounting’ have been missing,” said Pasquale Steduto, head of the FAO’s Water Development and Management Unit.
“The data this project has acquired and the information products it has produced will fill these gaps and let the governments of the region make the most of the Nile’s resources,” he said.
The report, Information Products for Nile Basin Water Resource Management, says 80 per cent of renewable water resources in the Nile basin are already used for agriculture purposes, and the potential to increase this water supply is very limited.
“It becomes very, very important that water authorities have detailed information for good water accounting, and planning tools that let them weigh the costs and benefits of their policies and their resource management choices,” Mr. Steduto said.
The project, whose results were presented by the FAO in Kigali, Rwanda, to the authorities of governments in the region, has gathered information on water and agriculture, put together a forecast of the region’s future food requirements, carried out a survey of the types of farming systems practised along the Nile, and analyzed possible future scenarios for water management and agriculture development.
In addition, the project produced 18 technical manuals on water measurements techniques and technologies, and trained hundreds of staff in water and agriculture agencies.
Mr. Steduto said the project had also strengthened a shared vision of sustainable development among the governments of the Nile.
“Only through a joint effort of the riparian countries can a sustainable future be designed and built,” he said.
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