1. Context and challenges:
West Africa is characterized by harsh climatic conditions with erratic rainfall, exacerbated by the climate change patterns. Its large part is classified as drylands. Over the past decades, persistent droughts have contributed to episodes of famine, severe malnutrition, and water-borne diseases and epidemics due to water stress. The water availability in the Sahel region has dropped by more than 40% in the last 20 years.
The lack of water is a development issue, eespecially when 98% of the water used for agriculture comes from rainfall. With frequent climatic shocks and persistence of drought conditions, vulnerable households are less able to cope with crises and struggle to recover.
Water stress and insufficient or lack of infrastructures for water access and use contributes significantly to exacerbate food and nutrition insecurity, poor health conditions, poverty, conflicts and migrations in the region. Lack of adequate water and sanitation facilities, as well as poor hygiene conditions, exacerbated by often limited or even failing health systems, are all obstacles to adequate health care, and make some communities extremely vulnerable to waterborne diseases and epidemics, especially during this period of Covid 19 . Water resource is essential for sustainable development, poverty alleviation and improved human well-being. ECOWAS, as well as CILSS, is committed, within the framework of the implementation of the “PRIA-SAN”, to improve access to water and food security for vulnerable populations, in particular those in rural areas. FAO has privileged the development and adoption of innovative techniques of water access and use to sustain agro sylvo pastoral development and the resilience of rural population in West Africa
2. Concrete approaches and examples of good practices at Sub-regional level:
Three innovative techniques of water control and efficient use has been adopted and implemented:
2.1. Rain water harvesting through Cisterns or water tanks. This innovative technique has been developed through the “1 million cisterns Initiative for the Sahel”. This technique enables vulnerable communities, especially rural women, to access water through a simple and cost-effective water collection and storage technology in order to adapt to climate change and therefore improve their food and nutrition security and strengthen their resilience. Water from cisterns are mainly used for drinking but they are also used for irrigation of small scale vegetable garden around the compounds. Ten thousands (10,000) women have been targeted for the initiative that will continue to be up scaled continuously depending on resource availability, the target being 1million cisterns built for vulnerable communities in West Africa and the Sahel.
Water cisterns and beneficiaries.
2.2. Rain water harvesting through runoff water capture/SURFACE WATER STORAGE (BOULIS):
Construction of surface storage water harvesting structures in the form of community water reservoirs/dams called “BOULIS”. This technique has an advantage of collecting a huge quantity of rain water to be used in agriculture and livestock, as well as in aquaculture. It strengthens ecosystem-based approaches to land, water and soil management for integrated and climate resilient crop-livestock- aquaculture and agroforestry systems for small and medium size farms. It also allows the recharge of aquifer. This technique has been more used in Burkina Faso. Around 149 000 rural households, including pastoralists benefited from this technique that will continue to be up scaled depending on resource availability.
Boulis built in Burkina Faso
2.3. Underground water drilling using solar powered pumps/Solar Powered Irrigation System (SPIS)
This technique has many advantages: – Ensure water availability any time as needed, during both rainy and dry seasons, – Promote coherent approaches to sustainable land and water management in a water scarce and climate change environment, – Improve water use efficiency for sustainable agri-food systems development, Improve the resilience and livelihood of rural population, especially women, – Promote the use of clean energy in Agriculture. This technology, comprising of a full-equipped Solar Powered Irrigation System that includes fencing, borehole drilling, Solar pumping system overhead and surface tanks and the full reticulation system capable of irrigating around 5 ha, is being successfully used in Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Mali and Niger where women associations have benefited from the technology.
Better water resources management and sustainable development of public water and sanitation services are recognized by the international community as one of the priority factors for the sustainable development of the entire region. West Africa is at the forefront of the related priorities in this regard: security/ peace stability, health, agricultural production and energy are concerned. Regional leaders mainly in West Africa are increasingly putting water at the center of their concerns.
Solving water crisis in the region requires a continuous and powerful effort to build concrete impact. A coherent and participatory approach will be needed in order to ensure a concrete financial capacity to cover water resources need at local level.
Significant changes must take place in order to ensure the proper sustainability of the actions undertaken, with a focus on continuous progress and achievement of related objectives.
Need for integration: The need to make water available through several water harvesting technics is obvious and necessary as described above. However, for sustainability in agro silvo pastoral production, this should be guided by an integrated water resource management program complemented with best agricultural practices such as Agro ecology, climate smart agriculture, soil health and soil fertility management practices that conserve water and nutriments in the soil.