The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Nile Water Not Helping Farmers, Report Says

analysis

Photo: Stelios Comninos
Sunset over a section of the Nile River (file photo).

The Nile Basin has enough water for agriculture but water management policies in its 11 countries risk locking out small-scale farmers, a new research has found out.

The research, which has been published in a new book, The Nile River Basin: Water, Agriculture, Governance and Livelihoods, calls on governments to invest in agricultural water management initiatives like irrigation and rain water harvesting to help small-scale farmers grow food throughout the year.

"Agriculture, the economic bedrock of all eleven Nile countries and the most important source of income for the majority of the region's people, is under increased pressure to feed the basin's burgeoning population--already 180 million people, half of which live below the poverty line," the book says.

The research says that even though the Nile and its tributaries are abundant lack of access to water is another area that could negatively affects the poor.

"In the Nile Basin, poor people especially women living further away from water sources travel longer distances to collect water. But by rainwater management livestock and fisheries would therefore benefit from policies that give them greater access to wate," the book says.

Dr Seleshi Bekele, scientist and a co-author from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) says currently governments in the basin are giving scant attention to improvement of water management in their policies to small scale farmers which is key to the region's economic growth, food security and poverty reduction.

"It is tempting for these governments to focus on large-scale irrigation schemes, such as existing schemes in Sudan and Egypt, but more attention must be paid to smaller, on-farm water management approaches that make use of rainwater and stored water resources such as aquifers," Bekele says.

For small scale farmers and poor to benefit from basin the book also calls on improving governance in coordination among Nile Basin country governments through the establishment of a permanent, international body--the Nile Basin Commission--to manage the river would play a key role in strengthening the region's agriculture and socio-economics development and regional integration in the Nile Basin.

Through the commission conflict among countries will be reduced as much is to be gained through cooperation than confrontation as seen through a recent Egypt and Ethiopian agreement over the building of renaissance Dam, Africa's biggest hydroelectricity plant.

"Past experience has shown that countries tend to cooperate when it comes to sharing water," said Alain Vidal, a co-author and director of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food.

The book which has been researched by hydrologists, economists, agriculturalists and social scientists says apart from huge projects, water is a vital resource for many other activities, including small scale enterprises like livestock and fisheries. This should not be forgotten in the rush to develop large scale infrastructure.

Apart from Kenya other countries in the Nile Basin include Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, South Sudan, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopian and Egypt.

The book has been published by The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

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