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Published On: Wed, Aug 27th, 2014

Is water-energy-food nexus catalyst for economic development?

By Kate Obande

Blessing Ameh, a 14-year-old girl, recently dropped out of school in Otukpa village, Benue State.

The first of four children in her family, the girl attended LEA Secondary School in the village.

For more than seven years, Ameh usually trekked 10 kilometres from her house to the stream to fetch water; a chore she needed to do at least three times daily so as to meet the household’s water needs.

She often arrived at the school premises late and she was usually punished for her lateness.

Due to her poor academic performance, which was also stimulated by absenteeism; Ameh was withdrawn from school by her parents.

However, Ameh’s case merely typifies the plight of many other children who find it difficult to survive in school because of the harrowing experience they face in efforts to cope with their daily household chores.

In a nutshell, the lack of potable water in many communities has affected the studies of several students, particularly students.

“Water is life,’’ so says a popular axiom. Truly, water is a basic necessity of life but its scarcity has triggered appreciable losses in education, agriculture and economic empowerment of the people.

Many residents of urban areas across the country now engage in drilling boreholes in order to have access to drinkable water, unmindful of the consequences of their action on the environment and earth crust.

Mr Michael Ojo, the Country Representative WaterAid Nigeria, observed that many students in Nigeria and other African countries spent a lot of time in fetching water for their households, thereby affecting their studies. “Women and girls, who must spend hours a day seeking water, cannot spend that time at school or in income-generating activities.

“Eliminating that burden, and giving girls the time and opportunity to focus on education, will ultimately lead to healthier, better-educated families who have a better chance of working their way out of extreme poverty,’’ he said.

Besides, the lack of potable water has led to the upsurge of water-borne diseases in several communities.

For instance, a recent UNICEF report indicates that diarrhea, a water-borne disease, is one of the major causes of the death of under-five children globally, with 600,000 children dying each year.

With over 1.7 billion cases worldwide, diarrhea also causes stunted growth in children.

The negative impact of water scarcity cannot be over-emphasised, compelling observers to call for the initiation of pragmatic measures to tackle water inadequacy and attain water security in Nigeria.

They, nonetheless, recommend the adoption of the “nexus approach’’, which was proposed by water experts at the 2014 Africa Water Week in Dakar, Senegal, in efforts to address the situation.

The experts proposed a “nexus approach’’ in plans to improve food, energy and water security by integrating the management of the limited resources, while transitioning to a more “green” economy which would provide adequate food, energy and water for the expanding human population.

They wanted the adoption of a “nexus approach’’ in plans to develop the water, energy and agriculture sectors, insisting that it would facilitate the integration of management and governance procedures

across sectors and scales.

The Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus Approach implies that the three sectors are inextricably linked and that actions in one area more will have impact on the other areas.

These linkages have always been there but as the world population hurtles towards 9 billion in 2050, coupled with increasing demands for basic services and growing desires for higher living standards, water is an essential factor which will promote the development of every other sector.

Water for household uses and agriculture, especially irrigation for all year round farming, as well as hydroelectricity generation will be available if water security is achieved.

In more specific terms, Mr Mike Muller, the former Director-General, Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, South Africa, stressed that the maintenance of the nexus between water, energy and agriculture would facilitate efforts to achieve water security in Africa.

Underscoring the connection between water and energy, Muller pointed out that government should integrate plans for the development of hydropower generation with overall development plans for the energy and water sectors.

“ Governments of African countries should evaluate the impact of the non-consumptive use of water for power generation on other consumptive uses in order to harmonise the two aspects of water use.

“They should give consideration to pumped storage hydroelectric projects as a source of peaking power and optimising power generation from existing hydro-projects by improved reservoir regulation,’’ he said.

Besides, Muller argued that agricultural production could be increased through irrigation, including the bringing of potentially irrigable lands under irrigation and increasing the productivity of those lands currently under irrigation.

For the network of these sectors to achieve the desired goal, Mr Kyle Sucher, the Programme Manager, Global Environment Technology Foundation, noted that government had to increase the number of its water management equipment, while improving its operation.

He said that government also ought to establish comprehensive mechanism for monitoring facilities and technologies for waste water treatment, giving greater attention to alternatives, especially low-energy methods of waste treatment and land application or other economic use of wastes.

Westcott Finley and James Seiber wrote in the June 2014 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that the world’s population was expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050.

They stressed that the population boom would pose significant challenges to efforts to meet human needs, while impacting on the environment in a minimal way.

Finley and Seiber argued that secure and safe sources of food, energy and water would be required in efforts to support the increased population.

“The nexus of food, energy and water is one of the most complex, yet critical issues that face our society.

“Meeting current and future needs of the population will require security in food, energy and water supplies.

“It would also form the basis for building partnerships that reflect different interests and enable more effective integration with broader society, while creating unity amongst states and countries,’’ the said.

Perceptive analysts believe that the approach will engender the sustainable development of the water sector in Nigeria and other African countries, citing Ireland and India as some of the countries that have adopted the approach.

Acknowledging the fact that urban growth in Africa is one of the highest in the world; the analysts underscore the need for African countries to adopt the Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus Approach.

They note that the adoption of the approach will particularly ensure better water management in efforts to achieve practical outcomes in agriculture, energy and other sectors. (NAN)

 

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