Tuesday, 17 February 2015


In preparation for our first meeting, which will take place on this Wednesday, Laura and I agreed to collect some initial secondary research to help form a base platform of project relevant knowledge. By doing so, when we have our meeting our initial decisions and progression will already be informed, subsequently helping us to progress with the brief much quicker. 


Secondary information was initially collected from the internet due to the vast amount of relevant material there is freely available. To start the process of gathering the initial body of research I read back over the brief and outlined individual areas the research should focus on.

  • Sub-Saharan water collection.
  • Water as a resource in Africa - facts & figures. 
  • Water management.
  • Reducing water usage.
  • Carrying water - most efficient/harmless way.


After browsing through the depths of the internet for around half an hour I came across the 'Innovative Approaches to Agricultural Water Use for Improving Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa' a report which provides an overview of the options for developing and using water for food production in Africa. 

The report does not specifically cover any of the areas of focus in any great depth but does provide information and insights on topics such as;
  • Water Resources in Africa - Facts (very detailed).
  • Increasing and managing water supply.
  • Water harvesting.
  • Sustainable management of ground water.
  • Water demand management.

Despite having a focus on the agricultural aspects of water usage and management in Africa I believe, after skim reading some of the reports contents, that there is information included in the paper that has relevance to the 'Water for All' brief and potential outcomes. Furthermore, as the report was produced under a number of organisations including the 'International Water Management Institute', facts, data and opinions featured in the study will be well researched and reliable. 

As I read through the report, any important or relevant information was listed underneath the page it was featured on.  

  • The water scarcity map (featured on the next page) shows that all countries in Africa are projected to be either physically or economically water scarce by 2025.
  • Imports are expected to increase to account for more than 10% of total cereal consumption in Africa. 
  • In SSA, imports are expected to triple from 9million metric tons in 1990 to 29million tons in 2020.
  • Countries that are physically water scarce may not have adequate water resources to meet their projected needs by 2020.
  • More of a quarter of the worlds population live in a region that would be affected. 
  • Economically, water scarce countries potentially have the power to meet their future needs, but will not be able to make additionally investments needed to harness the resources. 
  • Agriculture accounts for more than 70% of the worlds water usage. 

  • 80-100 liters of water needed per person per day for drinking, cooking and washing. 
  • With growing populations agriculture will soon need to start competing with urban water needs.
  • Water allocation for agriculture often gives way to high value urban developments which harshly affects food production. 

  • Water needs are directly proportional to population growth.
  • Concerns for sustainability and possible adverse environmental and health impacts of wasteful water use and poorly planned development 

  • There are two main ways to seal with the physical scarcity of water and the rising costs of developing new sources to meet the increasing demand - Managing supply and managing demand. 
  • Managing supply - includes developing new sources of surface water and groundwater, monitored and regulated use of waste water in urban agriculture, promotion of water harvesting & reuse of agricultural drainage.
  • Managing supply - includes incentives thorough policies and mechanisms, new technologies that promote efficient water use and water and soil conservation. 

  • Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa face 'economic water scarcity' meaning they do not have the financial or human resources to address the water scarcity problem.
  • It is imperative that African countries find innovative, cost affective solutions to improve water and land management.
  • Some promising options under supply are - rainwater harvesting, wetland development, tapping of shallow aquifers, conjunctive use of water and groundwater, recycling liquid and solid waste from urban irrigation. 

  • The potential contribution of water-harvesting techniques in rain-fed areas include; reduced pressure to invest in conventional water augmentation (such as dams, river diversion), cheap technology available to farmers, Reduced pressure on groundwater resources. 

  • Overuse of groundwater tables runs the risk of overabstraction and deelining groundwater tables. 
  • Optimal usage of wetlands is expected to have benefits for small farmers as well as for the conservation of the wetland environment.
  • Wetlands have a wide range of uses such as;
    • Cropping.
    • Livestock grazing.
    • Livestock watering.
    • Soil for domestic use.
    • Domestic water (including water & bathing).
    • Brick molding.
    •  Harvesting plants.
    • Medicinal plants.

  • In countries with high levels of rural poverty groundwater development offers major opportunities for promoting food production and improving livelihoods. 
  • The capital requirements needed to develop groundwater irrigation are usually low and productivity is high.  
  • Shallow aquifers refer to groundwater that is accessible using indigenous methods of well construction - low cost technique.
  • Where a hand-dug well are not appropriate, a tube well can provide an alternative.

  • Groundwater sourcing of water makes it unnecessary for farmers or farm workers to convey water over long distances. 
  • A benefit of using groundwater sources is that they are replenished by annual rains and flooding. 
  • Conjunctive use of both groundwater and surface water can minimise environmental and economic effects and optimise the water demand & supply balance.
  • Surface water storage in a reservoir can supply water for most annual requirements, however groundwater storage can be kept as reserves for years, even through periods of below-average rainfall. 

  • In Sub-Saharan Africa most wastewater used for irrigation is not treated.
  • For agriculture, wastewater can offer a stable source of supply especially during drought periods - Water management. 

  • There are high environmental and health risks associated with the use of wastewater for farming. 
  • Water demand management can help save water, increase economic efficiency of use and improve water quality and even promote sustainable water use.
  • Irrigation technologies and water management practices can improve land and water productivity and contribute to better rural livelihoods. 
  • Technologies like micro or drip irrigation make use of low-cost plastic piping, sprinklers and even computerised control systems (often used in developed countries) have a potential application in Africa.

  • Precision irrigation, something that would vastly reduce the amount of water used in agriculture and increase crop productivity, can be practised with existing conventional technologies - Reduces demand on water supply. 
  • Recent evidence suggests that the role of the private sector in expanding the use of water for agriculture has great potential. 

  • Managing land and water in Sub-Saharan Africa provides opportunities to escape poverty and achieve water and food security.
  • Given the high degree of physical and economic water scarcity and the growing demand and competition for water means there are fewer opportunities to expand irrigation areas. Therefore, our focus much shift to improving the productivity of water and access to water by poor people.
  • Some techniques that can be used to overcome the problem are;
    • Harvesting of rainwater.
    • Development of wetlands for agriculture.
    • Exploitation of shallow groundwater aquifers.
    • Recycling of liquid and solid waste.  


Although the study was focused on water usage for agricultural purposes within the report there was still a vast body of information included that had direct relevance to the problems outlined in the brief. Information included on the initial brief distributed by RSA detailed how an aspect of the project was increasing the sustainable use of water, a concept that the report covers quite extensively. 

As well as providing me with relevant and applicable information, the report also helped me to form a base knowledge of water scarcity and usage in Sub-Saharan Africa, something that before reading the paper I completely lacked. By reading the report and analysing its contents I feel more informed on the subject and problems that people living in harsh sub-saharan environments are facing. I believe that with this platform of knowledge my initial concepts and directions for the brief will be much more informed and applicable. 

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