8 November 2012

Ethiopia: Improving Smallholder Farmers' Stake in Nile Development

Photo: Siegfried Modola/IRIN
A Nairobi City Market trader shows his goods on March 7, 2011.

Statistical evidences show that in the next two decades and a half time the population of the Nile riparian countries is expected to be doubled which requires ever renewed spirit of cooperation as a remedy for better water resources management in the region.

Out of the total population projected in the countries, the number of smallholder farmers is outweighing. The agriculture of Ethiopia, which contributes over 85 per cent of the Nile River, is largely based on smallholder farmers. Hence, any move towards the utilization of the water resource must be at best interest of the large number of the smallholder farmers.

The benefits smallholder farmers gain from the water resource is yet to be improved. There is a need to consider the farmers who rely on the river for their food and incomes risk missing out benefits.

Despite enough water in the Nile basin to support development, small farmers are at risk of being marginalized. The Nile River, together with its associated tributaries and rainfall, could provide 11 countries, and the drought-plagued countries of the Horn of Africa--with enough water to support a vibrant agriculture sector.

Scholare argue that no reason to go for war on Nile River. Better cooperation among the riparian countries is required to share this precious resource. According to a newly inaugurated book entitled: "The Nile River Basin: Water, Agriculture, Governance and Livelihood", reports of conflict among these countries over these complex management issues are exaggerated.

Past experience has also shown that countries tend to cooperate when it comes to sharing water. For instance, recent agreements between Egypt and Ethiopia show that even the most outspoken basin country politicians are very aware that they have much more to gain through cooperation than confrontation.

What has to come at the centre of the cooperation on utilization of Nile Basin is therefore improving the stake of smallholder farmers in developing the Nile Basin. True, appropriate response to smallholder farmers' questions for water sources and improving their stake in finding lasting solution are part and parcel of the efforts in ensuring sustainable and equitable utilization of the resource.

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