‘Batswana farmers face a potentially disastrous water crisis from the combination of climate change and competition for scarce water resources,’ says the 2006 Human Development Report (HDR), released last Friday at the Gaborone International Conference Center.
The report, entitled ‘Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis’, is recommending immediate steps to avert a serious crisis of shoring up the rights of the rural poor, increasing their access to irrigation and new technology as this would help them adapt to inevitable climate change.
“The biggest challenge ahead is to manage water resources faced with competition and climate change to meet rising food needs while protecting the access of poor and vulnerable people,” said 2006 HDR lead author, Kevin Watkins.
According to this report, climate change threatens to intensify water insecurity on an unparalleled scale. Even with an agreement to mitigate carbon emissions through international cooperation, the report emphasized that dangerous climate change is now almost inevitable. It stated that most severe consequences would be experienced by countries and people who bear no responsibility for the problem.
The report pointed out that parts which will mostly be affected are Sub-Saharan African countries which face crop loss of up to 25 percent from climate change, including weather patterns.
The report came up with three recommendations that would help address crises threatening farmers around the globe. Firstly, suggested that farmers’ rights be secured so as to give poor people opportunities to escape poverty. The report says the absence of these rights would render farmers unable to complete on any level.
The second recommendation was irrigation and technology. The report stated that farmers with access to irrigation were less likely to be among the poorest. Though the new sources of water for irrigation were increasingly expensive, and ecologically damaging, the report cited that the danger was that those with no rights would get no access. It said the solution here would be efficient and fair cost-recovery systems which would be linked to the benefits gained from irrigation so as to help rationalize the use of water and to pay for maintenance of irrigation infrastructure .
According to the report, international aid for adaptation, which is the last recommendation, ought to be a cornerstone of multilateral action on climate change. The Adaptation Fund, attached to the Kyoto Protocol, would mobilize only about US$20 million by 2012 on current projections, while the Global Environmental Facility, the principal multilateral mechanism of adaptation, has allocated $50 million to support adaptation activities between 2005 and 2007, says the report.
Furthermore the report says efforts thus far to help the poor to adapt to climate change have been spectacularly inadequate. As dry areas get drier, wet areas get wetter and extreme weather becomes more common. It is stated that the poor who are usually most exposed to the elements and most directly dependent on the natural world for resources would become more vulnerable to hunger, poverty and environmental degradation.
Due to lack of water, the report stated that three million Kenyan people risk starvation from draught.
As a result of this, violent clashes between Kenyan farmers and pastoralists over water have become increasingly common, while Kenya’s GDP fell 16 percent between 1998 and 2000 due to drought.
As the climate changes, the report said, it hurts the rural poor who depend on agriculture but lack established rights and economic empowerment and a political voice. Increasing competition for water has the potential to push these people ever closer to disaster. In addition, the report mentioned that more and more farmers are losing out to the growing thirst of cities and industries.