Seeds of Hope

By Neha Khator | USAID| January 8, 2018


Improved seeds and better access to water have proved a winning combination for these Indian farmers.

Three spokes in his back wheel have almost come off, but farmer Kunwar Munda adjusts his feet and continues to cycle. Even as the breeze rushes through his hair, it is never enough to match the scorching sun. Trees and the ground have been burnt stony brown and dry.

After almost an hour of cycling, Munda arrives at a tented location in Mungadih village in Angara block in the eastern state of Jharkhand in India.

This is the third Kisan Mela (Farmer’s Fest) organized by USAID, the Centers for International Projects Trust (CIPT) and Birsa Agricultural University (BAU) under the Sustainable Agriculture and Farmers’ Livelihood (SAFAL) Program. Hundreds of farmers from across 15 villages have arrived here. Munda parks his cycle next to a large tree and joins a party of known faces from his village as a few hundred farmers continue to pour into the tent.

Among the arriving farmers is 22-year-old Sapna Devi. Unlike Munda, she had to cross a forested mountain on foot to reach the event.

Farmers gathered under a tent to collect their bags of high-yielding rice seeds. / Neha Khator, USAID

The farmers wait in anticipation before officials from the USAID-supported SAFAL project began distributing 1,200 bags of high-yielding rice seeds to the hundreds of farmers that have congregated.

As names are called one-by-one, farmers queue to get their bags, each containing five kilograms of high-yielding rice seeds.

Farmer Kunwar Munda smiles after collecting his bag of rice seeds. / Neha Khator, USAID

As Munda collects his bag and rejoins his group, his face beams with a smile that’s unstoppable.

“I have heard so much about these seeds. Farmers in villages near mine have doubled their crop production since they got these. And even the drought last year did not affect them. It is my turn now,” he says.

Munda, like every farmer in Jharkhand, is trapped in a vicious and complex agricultural quagmire.

The state has a mountain topography, which means that the land here is rocky, uneven and less fertile.

“Out of the state’s entire land mass, only 35 percent is cultivable land,” explains Kamal Vatta, director of CIPT. “And even though Jharkhand receives monsoon rains twice the national average, the state’s [sloping] geography means that 90 percent of the rainwater quickly washes away, leaving the farmers distressed with severe water shortage and periodic droughts.”

To compound these problems, farmers here grow a traditional, low-productive rice variety using farming methods passed on to them through generations. And, like most farmers here, Munda owns only a small plot of land. His father upon his death divided his one acre of farmland among Munda and his four brothers, leaving only one-fifth of the land each to cultivate. As a result, Munda barely produces enough to feed his family beyond six months.

To break this cycle of extreme poverty and food insecurity, USAID organized the first Farmer’s Fest in June 2015. Through this project, 730 farming families were selected from across 10 villages to receive high-yielding rice seeds along with training in modern sowing and farming methods.

Farmer Sapna Devi after receiving her bag of rice seeds. Through this USAID project, 730 farming families were selected to receive high-yielding rice seeds and training in modern farming methods. / Neha Khator, USAID

But seeds alone couldn’t do the magic.

“In India, farming is still rain-fed and rain-dependent. To cultivate a good crop, farmers need assured access to water during the months of shortage. That is why we began building dobhas or small ponds,” says Vatta.

Adobha is a low-cost rainwater harvesting technique where a 10-by-10 foot pit is dug to trap the rainwater.

“Under the SAFAL project, CIPT and agriculture scientists from Birsa University used geospatial mapping to carefully identify rain and water stream patterns to build the dobhas in strategic locations. In the first year, we built 20 such dobhas — two each in the 10 selected villages,” adds Vatta. The farmers then draw the required amount of water from the dobha using a pipe powered by a pump.

The dobha built near farmer Sukhram Bediya’s farm / Neha Khator, USAID

Farmer Sukhram Bediya from Mungadih village proudly shows the dobha built an arms-length from his less than 1-acre farmland. Whereas before he was producing barely 150 to 200 kilograms of rice a year, after utilizing the higher-yielding rice seeds and dobha irrigation technique, his production shot up to 450 kilograms in only a year.

“After I harvested the rice, the project staff provided me vegetable seeds which again turned out very well. I sold the vegetables in the nearby weekly bazaar, and now I earn an average Rs. 1,000 ($16) every week just by selling vegetables,” says Bediya.

Currently, lush green colocasia leaves (cultivated for its nutritious leaves and root) and ripened tomatoes cover his field. These will soon be cleared to be sold at the weekly bazaar and will make way for his next rice crop.

Farmer Sukhram Bediya shows his field. / Neha Khator, USAID

“In the last two years, I have never left my fields empty. I’m producing something throughout the year now,” says Bediya, a new gold-coloured watch reflecting the sun as he smooths his crisp, light-blue shirt with his hands.

With rising farm production came rising incomes, and farmers like Bediya and Bharat Ram, who is from a nearby village, owe their newfound prosperity to the seeds and dobhas backed by USAID.

Bharat Ram’s daughter had just passed her Grade 10 exams the year he made Rs. 15,000 ($244) by selling a bumper cucumber harvest. “From that money, I paid Rs. 5,000 ($77) for her admission fees to enrol her into the Women’s College in Ranchi (the state capital).” Adds Ram with a tone of disbelief: “Who would’ve thought that cucumbers could one day pay for my daughter’s education.”

As these stories of transformed livelihoods travelled across villages far and wide, farmers like Munda and Sapna Devi began joining the SAFAL project. Like Bharat Ram, Munda too wants to send his sons to study in a private school in the city. “They are talented, bright boys and I know they’ll do well for themselves if they get the right education,” says Munda.

In the last two years, the project has built 320 dobhas in 30 villages in the Angara block alone and has enrolled over 2,100 farmers, providing them with access to water and seeds of hope.

The project has been so successful that the local state government has taken notice and plans to drastically ramp up dobha construction going forward.

“Based on the success of our program, the Jharkhand state government has now committed to constructing 500,000 dobhas across the state by 2022, collectively saving 12.5 million cubic meters of rainwater,” says Vatta. The Jharkhand state government’s efforts support the Indian Prime Minister’s flagship national goal of providing “water to every farm” and doubling farmers’ incomes and productivity.

Farmer Sapna Devi, though, has simpler dreams. With the increased farm income, she hopes to buy herself a red saree. “It would look good on me, right?” she asks. “Oh yes, you’ll look very pretty,” giggle her friends from behind.


About the Author

Neha Khator is a development and outreach communications specialist with USAID’s mission in India.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by USAID Frontlines and retrieved on 01/09/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


Game-changing water solutions for the Middle East and North Africa


SUBMITTED BY CLAUDIA W. SADOFF ON WED, 11/22/2017 | CO-AUTHORS: ANDERS JAGERSKOG


Also available in  العربية

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have become a hotspot of unsustainable water use, with more than half of current water withdrawals in some countries exceeding the amount naturally available. This could have serious long-term consequences for the region’s growth and stability. Solutions for narrowing the gap between the supply of and demand for water are an urgent priority.

As the Fourth Arab Water Forum gets underway next week in Cairo, Egypt much is at stake in the region’s water management. Armed conflict and massive numbers of refugees have put tremendous additional stress on land and water resources in MENA as well as on infrastructure in communities receiving the refugees. In Jordan alone, according to the country’s Ministry of Water and Irrigation, climate change and the refugee crisis have reduced water availability per person to 140 cubic meters, far below the globally recognized threshold of 500 cubic meters for severe water scarcity.

These recent developments compound the impact of decades of rapid population growth, urbanization and agricultural intensification. A recent World Bank report notes that more than 60% of the region’s population is concentrated in places affected by high or very high surface water stress, compared to a global average of about 35%. The report further warns that climate-related water scarcity is expected to cause economic losses estimated at 6-14% of GDP by 2050 – the highest in the world.

As governments search for solutions, two trends, in particular, could present game-changing opportunities to bolster water security. As captured in two recent reports by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the viability of these solutions will depend on how governments and societies respond to them.

The promise and perils of solar-powered agriculture

One trend is the rapid rollout of solar-powered irrigation in some countries, with the triple aim of strengthening water, energy and food security. Morocco, for example, expects to install more than 100,000 solar pumps by 2020. Similarly, Egypt is implementing a program of desert agriculture, involving the irrigation of 630,000 hectares with solar technology. Other countries are embarking on such ventures as well, taking advantage of lower costs for solar technology and the region’s high solar radiation. Such initiatives will replace polluting and expensive diesel pumps, and offer a new option to farmers who lack access to energy grids. Reductions in traditional fuel subsidies strengthen the incentive for shifting to the use of solar and other renewable energy sources.

Governments hope that solar technology will offer a way for farming communities to leapfrog from chronic vulnerability toward resilient and sustainable intensification of production. The option has a downside, however, stemming from inadequate understanding and poor regulation of groundwater. These shortcomings, by permitting groundwater overexploitation, have caused water tables to fall, making it more expensive to pump from greater depths, while also creating problems such as soil salinity. Solar-powered irrigation could make matters worse by permitting the extraction of more groundwater at lower cost, impacting vulnerable rural communities with poor access to water resources.

Innovative monitoring technologies (such as remotely controlled pumps and smart water meters) could help address some of the challenges. Moreover, as is already happening in Jordan, experts can use remote sensing techniques to help governments control the expansion of groundwater-based irrigation.

Tapping the only increasing natural resource

A second trend centers on wastewater, 82% of which is not being recycled in the region, compared to just 30% in high-income countries. This presents a major threat to human and environmental health but also a massive opportunity to better satisfy water demand. Wastewater is the only natural resource that increases as cities and populations grow. Countries in the MENA region already generate 18.4 cubic kilometers of municipal wastewater per year.

Many technologies are available to treat and reuse wastewater for productive purposes, including forestry, agriculture, landscaping, and aquifer recharge. The uptake of these options has so far been slow, however, because of rigid regulations and a policy disconnect between the agricultural, sanitation and other sectors. When reuse projects do get underway, the lack of appropriate tariffs and economic incentives undermine their sustainability by making it difficult for them to recover the costs of wastewater treatment. Key considerations going forward are the selection of crops best suited for irrigation with reused water and measures for addressing specific health concerns.

MENA has much to gain from efforts to overcome these barriers. With appropriate treatment, wastewater has the potential to provide irrigation and fertilizer for more than 2 million hectares of agricultural land. This would contribute to the conservation of freshwater, making more available for domestic use and a wide variety of productive purposes. Jordan’s success in harnessing private sector technological innovation and financing to recycle wastewater offers an especially instructive case. Such technologies, reinforced by new policies, could help put MENA on course toward water security. This will require commitment at all levels of society to address cultural barriers impeding change in water use, bridge institutional and policy divisions, and revise overly stringent regulations.

Turning threats into opportunities

Solutions to the growing problem of water scarcity are within reach. The challenge is to accelerate the development and spread of innovation for sustainable water management. This, in turn, requires a new “water consciousness,” as noted in Beyond Water Scarcity, which recognizes that everyone – from individual farmers and consumers to businesses and public agencies – has a responsibility to overcome water scarcity.

Participants in the Arab Water Forum will hear a lot about such innovations in water management. The challenge will be to build momentum behind solutions that can make a difference.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by The World Bank and retrieved on 12/30/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


 

Urban Wastewater for Food Security – Averting the Next Health Crisis in Africa

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Photo Credit: African Development Bank. Wastewater is one of the unresolved development challenges facing rapidly growing African cities.


Analysis 


Wastewater from sewage that is churned out by expanding cities and towns worldwide helps meet food security globally, especially in developing regions.  It is the one resource (unlike land, labour, or freshwater) that is continuously growing in volume and used to cultivate vegetables, grains, animal feed, and fish at a larger scale than we ever realised.

A new study shows how widespread this practice is among farmers who grow our food. Using satellite images, geo spatial data sets, and computer modelling of the water cycle, the report estimates that because most wastewater remains untreated 885 million people are at health risk through the food chain, not counting those otherwise in contact with the water.

Health risks are most common in low- and middle-income countries, where facilities to treat wastewater have lagged behind population growth, and yet food production must rely on expanding wastewater flows because alternative, freshwater sources for agricultural irrigation are increasingly scarce. Without action, we could be allowing diseases like parasitic worms, diarrhea and even cholera to wipe out the impressive gains made in increasing food supply.

West Africa – with its high population growth – is a particular hotspot, signalling an increasing risk in a region already beset by health challenges. In Ghana, up to 90% of the fresh, leafy vegetables consumed raw in urban areas are grown in or near cities under irrigation with highly polluted water. A survey from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), who contributed to the new study, showed that in Ghana only 16% of wastewater treatment facilities are fully functional, treating a small fraction of the country’s wastewater. As a result, water pollution is common, and unsafe irrigation water is used to grow vegetables eaten daily by about 800,000 urban dwellers.

Acting now is crucially important – the daily health risks and loss of life, especially of children, are unacceptably high in low-income countries. At present levels of investments in wastewater infrastructure coupled with rapid urban expansion, most of these countries will never reach 80 or 90% treatment; it has taken Ghana decades to get its wastewater treatment up to 15%.

Risk “barriers” are needed along the food value chain

Fortunately, there are several alternative approaches where conventional wastewater treatment remains a distant prospect, that are approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). An IWMI estimate for Ghana indicates that investing in these options has a five-fold return in public health benefits.

Options to reduce risk exist from the moment wastewater is generated to the point contaminated food is eaten. For example, on-farm water treatment, protective clothing for farmers, safe irrigation practices that minimize the contact farmers and crops have with pathogens (disease-causing microbes), improved hygiene in markets and effective vegetable-washing in kitchens. Ideally, several of these pathogen barriers are used in combination.

Create market incentives to improve sanitation

Treating the pathogen-contaminated sludge in septic tanks and pit latrines receives scant attention and is severely underfunded in most developing countries. Yet, business opportunities exist across the entire sanitation value chain, as demonstrated through a recent a report on promising business models published by researchers of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems(WLE). Wastewater holds great potential to create marketable resources, such as fertilizer, energy and clean water. If captured and sold, these could offer significant incentives for investment in treatment.

For example, more than 40 million hectares of land could be irrigated with the added benefits of substantially meeting the crop fertilizer needs (up to 322 kilograms of nitrogen and 64 kilos of phosphorous per hectare per year). Alternatively, the global wastewater supply could generate enough electricity for about 130 million households. If businesses or public-sector enterprises tap into this market to generate revenues, they would significantly improve sanitation and global health outcomes by responsibly managing health risks while still allowing treated water to be used in food production and other uses.

A twin solution: safe sanitation and food security in Ghana

In Ghana, the public and private sector has come together to launch a compost plant in Greater Accra. Taking household fecal sludge, which is often dumped illegally, the plant filters and dries this material on beds of sand. Next, the dried sludge is mixed with organic food waste or sawdust and “co-composted” for three months. This involves regular heaping and turning of the material as it decomposes.

Heat generated in the process kills pathogens in the compost that meets both WHO safety standards for reuse of human excreta and Ghana’s fertilizer standards. For improved marketability the compost is enriched with fertilizer and pressed into pellets. The production of the so-called Fortifer™ compost provides incentives for private sector engagement in the sanitation service chain, thus directly offering new jobs and a cleaner and healthier environment, while generating revenues to cover operations and other costs. This is an impressive model for future businesses to take note of, also in view of the Sustainable Development Goals 6.3 and 12.5, which call for increased investments in resource recovery and reuse.

As we look for solutions to advance the Sustainable Development Goals – addressing wastewater challenges will make great strides in improving sanitation, safeguarding our food, and more effectively using scarce water, land, and labour for the benefit of all.

Director of the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy & Professor and Distinguished Scholar, University of Arizona


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the AllAfrica.com and retrieved on 07/13/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


 

 

 

 

 

South Asia’s climate hazard hotspots

Before-disaster-strikes

Photo: V. Dakshinamurthy / IWMI


Mapping risks and estimating impacts on people and agriculture

Extreme climate events are taking a heavy toll in countries around the world, destroying lives and livelihoods. Since the late 1980s, the frequency of such disasters has increased – from an average of 195 per year during 1987-1998 to 338 per year during 2000-2011, according to researchers at the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in Belgium.

In response, governments are giving high priority to disaster risk reduction, alongside their efforts to mitigate climate change by curbing greenhouse gas emissions. To reduce risks effectively and equitably, however, they urgently need quantitative methods to assess the vulnerability of specific populations to multiple climate-related hazards. Such methods will provide national disaster management organizations with a stronger basis on which to target risk reduction aid and allocate finance for climate adaptation in line with climate justice principles.

Beyond global snapshots

Mapping Multiple Climate-related Hazards in South Asia

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) has just given a boost to such efforts with a new research report titled Mapping Multiple Climate-related Hazards in South Asia. The study was launched recently at a policy dialogue organized by IWMI jointly with the Government of Bihar, India; the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR); Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; and two CGIAR Research Programs – Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), which IWMI leads, and Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)

Bihar is the country’s most flood-prone state, having suffered agricultural losses with an estimated value of US$340 million over the past 12 years. It is the logical testing ground for index-based flood insurance under a project being carried out with the aforementioned CGIAR Research Programs.

“Countries in the region must coordinate actions to cope with adverse climate impacts, such as seasonal floods, drought, landslides, cyclones and sea-level rise,” says Giriraj Amarnath, lead author of the IWMI report and leader of the Institute´s Water Risks research group. At a global level, the World Bank and other organizations have conducted large-scale analysis of natural disasters, making it possible to pinpoint hotspots. But according to Amarnath, the resulting “global snapshots” are not detailed enough to guide local risk reduction efforts.

In South Asia, the assessment of multiple risks has increased over the last decade, though most studies are confined to the state or district level. In contrast, the IWMI study closes major knowledge gaps by offering a detailed approach to map climate hazards and identify areas at risk on a regional and sub-national scale.

Vulnerable people and places

Relying on the vulnerability assessment framework of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the IWMI study uses a combined index (based on hazard, exposure and adaptive capacity) to identify areas that are susceptible to extreme risk. For this purpose, researchers used data on the spatial distribution of climate-related hazards in 1,398 districts of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

FIGURE 4. Spatial distribution of drought frequency based on 13 years’ time series of MODIS imagery.

Based on its analysis of risk exposure in these countries, the study shows that approximately 750 million people – over 45 percent of the region´s entire population – were affected by climate hazards during the decade after 2000. Of this total, 72 percent were in India, 12 percent each in Bangladesh and Pakistan, and the remaining 4 percent in Bhutan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

Study results emphasize that agriculture is particularly vulnerable to climate extremes (mostly drought and flooding), with more than 58 percent of agricultural areas across the region damaged by multiple hazards. Drought affects the largest area (786,000 square kilometers), followed by extreme temperature, extreme rainfall, floods and sea-level rise.

The IWMI study includes an overall climate change vulnerability map, which makes it easy to visualize and identify climate-hazard hotspots. The results offer few surprises, confirming the common perception that the most vulnerable parts of South Asia are Bangladesh´s coastal region; the Indian states of West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat; and Sindh in Pakistan. This is a result of their exposure to sea-level rise and position in the transboundary basins of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers, which are prone to annual flooding.

FIGURE 21. Climate change vulnerability map of South Asia based on exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity to multiple hazards.

From awareness to action

There is growing awareness of the need to prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change. Finding better solutions to manage disaster risk is crucial for compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and Paris Climate Change Agreement. The methodology that IWMI presents in its new report is a step in the right direction and has potential for application to other regions.

“But much remains to be done toward generating more data on the ground at a finer scale,” says Amarnath. “And this, in turn, requires better coordination among various sectors to develop comprehensive risk assessments that can inform disaster risk management plans and risk-financing strategies.”


Read the report

Amarnath, Giriraj; Alahacoon, Niranga; Smakhtin, V.; Aggarwal, P. 2017. Mapping multiple climate-related hazards in South Asia. Colombo, Sri Lanka: International Water Management Institute (IWMI) 41p. (IWMI Research Report 170)[DOI] | Fulltext (6.07 MB)


 


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the International Water Management Institute and retrieved on 07/28/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


 

As the need for power surges, are small – or big – dams the answer?

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The Lower Mekong River, Vientiane Province, Lao PDR

Photo credit: Jenkins Macedo


BY STELLA PAUL


 

STOCKHOLM (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – To provide more clean energy, particularly in fast-growing Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the world needs more hydropower dams, energy experts say.

But a surge in building of big dams is also leading to poor people being displaced and losing rights to water – something that needs to be addressed if more dam projects go ahead, community leaders and researchers say.

“When you build a mega dam … your land acquisition and inundation creates a great level of displacement. This is a disastrous plan and not true development,” charged Rajendra Singh, an Indian water activist and winner of this year’s Stockholm Water Prize for his efforts in protecting rivers and boosting rainwater harvesting.

Singh, speaking at World Water Week in Stockholm, said building small-scale dams – rather than huge ones – may be a more effective way to protect poor people while increasing access to clean power.

“Build your dam on the river, just before the bend, and communities can still use the free flow of water,” he urged, drawing a serpentine line on a piece of paper. “You can still produce energy, though in a smaller scale, and you can still ensure people’s rights to use the water.”

At present, about 160 countries worldwide use hydropower technology for power generation, according to Adnan Amin, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency. The power produced amounts to just under 16 percent of the world’s total electricity generation, he said.

In more than 50 countries, hydropower plants provide at least 50 percent of the total electricity supply. An increase in this number, Amin said, is crucial if the world wants to shift to a sustainable society.

That is particularly true in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where much of the world’s population growth is expected to occur by 2050, experts say.

Building small-scale hydropower facilities can make sense, Amin said – but he warned they may not be up to meeting the coming demand.

“There is a strong business case for small hydro projects, but we are also facing a situation where the energy demand in Africa is set to triple and in Asia Pacific it will double by 2050. So we have to explore all possibilities,” he said.

“If we look at the developing countries with large power needs, large water needs, growing populations, we have to find power and water sources that can support this growth in the future. It’s very difficult to forego opportunities to develop clean power (and) irrigation because of some skeptics,” he said.

THREAT TO LOCAL PEOPLE

But research in West Africa by the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development, a research and policy group, suggests that building of large-scale dams is leading to widespread displacement of people there.

Seven dams in West Africa, six of them in the Niger basin, have led to about 237,000 people losing their homes or land, researchers found.

Many have had difficulty finding new ways to make a living, researchers said. In Burkina Faso, a planned tomato processing plant and fish stocking facility, promised to help provide new jobs, have yet to be built and in Senegal and Burkina Faso, over-fishing in dam reservoirs by displaced families who turned to fishing has led to conflict among fishermen, one study found.

Nouradine Zackaria Toure, the chief of a dam-affected village in the Gao region of Mali, said nine countries in West Africa today have 150 dams, with 40 more planned in the region. That has led to displacement, a lack of irrigated land, forced migration and conflicts over scarce food and water, he said.

Dams in West Africa, though built with the best of intentions, are failing to benefit the poorest of the communities, he said on the sidelines of the meeting.

In particular, the energy and the water produced by the dams is reaching others, but not those displaced by the projects, said Toure, who also heads a network of riverside communities in the Niger Basin, the Regional Coordination Group of Users of the Niger Basin (CRUBN).

He said the size of dams is less important than ensuring local communities share in their benefits, including access to the energy they produce and sufficient water to irrigate their fields. Dam-displaced communities must also have a genuine voice in deciding what should happen to them, he said.

“We don’t care about the size. We just want our rights over land and water and energy to be respected,” he said.

Singh, of India’s Rajasthan state, said the problem is that many dams and hydropower projects are designed to meet a country or region’s growing water and energy needs, but at the cost of curbing the rights of people and communities living near them.

In India and elsewhere Asia, dams are in some cases reducing or ending community ownership or access to water and land near it, and are often the root cause of conflicts, he said.

The Tipaimukh dam, now under construction in northeast India, for example, is set to displace or affect the fishing or water access of about 100,000 people in India and Bangladesh, activists in the region say.

“Community rights have become scarce and mainly because of that, water has become scarce for people,” he said. To prevent that problem widening, Asia must find ways to tap rivers without ending people’s rights to them, largely by building small dams rather than large ones, he said.

Amin, of the International Renewable Energy Agency, admitted there have been some negative impacts from large dams in the past, especially in countries like Brazil. But such problems are increasingly a thing of the past, he said, and builders are now ready to learn from past mistakes.

While the costs and benefits of building large dams needs to be weighed, the “greater good” is what’s important, he said.

(Reporting by Stella Paul; editing by Laurie Goering :; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women’s rights, trafficking and corruption. Visit www.trust.org/climate)


This article was initially published on the Thomson Reuters Foundation and retrieved on 09/05/2015 and shared on this blog for educational and information purposes only.


 

 

4th Field Trip Visual Updates from B. Ekxang, Laos

Soil moisture and pH probe. Soil moisture is measure in percentage.

Soil moisture and pH probe. Soil moisture is measure in percentage.

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Inspecting raised-beds at site A (480 sq. meters).

Inspecting raised-beds at site A (480 sq. meters).

Observing spacing, drainage, and layout at site A.

Observing spacing, drainage, and layout at site A.

Conducting a soil texture test using the visual soil assessment method.

Conducting a soil texture test using the visual soil assessment method.

Conducting a soil structure test using the VSA method.

Conducting a soil structure test using the VSA method.

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