This blog is proudly brought to you by Drew Choung. I am freshmen at the University of Colorado and currently have not chosen a major. I was inspired to create this blog by Christina Eisert: my writing and rhetoric prof. At first this was just another school assignment but as the semester has progressed i have thoroughly enjoyed blogging about truly interesting hunger and sustainability topics. Constructive criticism is welcome and feel free to express yourself through the comments.
Water scarcity is a very real issue that continues to plague the Sub-Saharan. By delving into the mismanagement and poor use of water in the region i was able to grasp a better understanding of the poverty in the area and why they continue to struggle.
This is not just Africa’s problem, as a global community it is our duty as citizens of planet earth to help our fellow man. I myself actually donated $5 to the Ethiopia Humanitarian Aid via savethechildren.org. It starts with education. Education about water, why it is important, and what can be one to maximize the resources readily available. Together as a planet we can all do our part to help solve this problem.
Water: Use & Management
Water is essential to human life. So essential that in as little as three days without water, one is extremely susceptible to death and the failure of bodily functions but water is not just needed for consumption. Reliable water use is also necessary for a steady economy and infrastructure, this is not strength of the region. Sub-Saharan Africa is an arid and dry region making water that much more valuable. Because water is so scare the ability to effectively harness, use, and manage this vital resource becomes that much more important. Due to the lack of effective and stable leadership management and use of water in the area is lacking in efficiency. The use and management of water in sub Saharan Africa is vital to overall vitality of the continent and despite the past inability to oversee the use of water in the region, there are signs of growth and hope for the future.
Africa’s physical limitations are the first and most obvious hindrance to Africa’s water use and management. Africa is the second largest continent, and while there are some areas that experience consistent rainfall most of Sub-Saharan Africa is extremely hot and arid area and this has a huge impact on the water scarcity in the region. Areas in the extreme north and south endure winter rains and summer droughts. The extreme temperatures in the area cause water in the soil to evaporate, leaving the ground deprived of precious water. The bottom line is that most of the region is a desert environment that makes it extremely difficult for the already financially deprived area to acquire any water to manage at all.
Even though all countries have the ability to harness and use the water, the amount that they have available is still miniscule. The average African family uses five gallons of water a day. Compare that with the whopping five hundred twenty two gallons an American family uses daily. The difference is astonishing, but not surprising when you look at the number of people who do not even have access to water. Three hundred forty five million. That is the number of people without water in Africa (UN-Water). This statistic reveals the true severity of the lack of water in the region.
Ethiopia is a prime example of a country in desperate need of more running and clean water. Only thirty eight percent of the country has access to running water and only twelve percent have “sanitary” (potable) water. On the other hand, the United States enjoys a modest ninety nine percent water availability and sanitation percentage (UN-Water). This contrast is extreme but really illuminates how important the ability to effectively use and manage water is. The lack of water in Ethiopia leaves two hundred and seventy thousand children at risk to starvation. Note that the statistic is children not people. This is a huge problem now and poses a serious threat to the future of the nation. A country that eliminates hunger eliminates the absence of water.
Improving irrigation is vital to the development of the region. Without an organized system of irrigation the region will remain hungry. An important key is widespread irrigation. Widespread irrigation would improve agricultural production. This increase in crop output would be a critical component to a rise in economic activity. With consistent crop output and, more specifically, consistent nourishment people could shift their focus on economic and executive problems instead of worrying about when there next meal would be. Upgraded irrigation infrastructure would dramatically help spark agricultural production thus reducing the amount of people live in poverty.
If something as simple as widespread irrigation could solve so many problems why hasn’t it been achieved, or even been attempted on a wide scale? The obvious answer is lack of foreign interest. Sub-Saharan Africa is low on valuable natural resources and the investment would be more of a humanitarian project rather than sound economic investment, all but eliminating the chances of a private company rolling the dice on an impoverished region. The second reason is deeper but just as obvious: lack of domestic organization. Most of Sub-Saharan Africa lacks the qualified manpower to even attempt to establish a widespread irrigation system. Qualified manpower meaning men (domestically) that can engineer the idea, oversee the assembly, and sheer number to construct.
In addition to lack of capable manpower there is an extreme lack in adequate technology. A large-scale irrigation system would be an overwhelming undertaking and would be a hopeless cause without the proper equipment. Due to the absence of wealth and funds domestically combined with the low amount of natural resources paint a very bleak picture. Without either component there is no flow of technology to create plans or to execute them. So many thing would be needed that the region simply could not provide: pipes, transportation for those pipes, equipment to install those pipes, and a propulsion system to effectively irrigate.
The reality of the present and immediate future is that the region remains in poverty; there have been statistical improvements. The Global Hunger Index is a statistical measurement that keeps track of a regions hunger situation. The score is a mean score of three factors: the percentage of malnourished people, the percentage of children under five that are underweight, and the mortality rate of children under the age of five. Since 2000 most countries in the region have managed to improve their GHI. The most successful nations were Ethiopia (31 to 25.7) and Niger (25.5 to 20.3) (Future Directions International). These economic growths can be attributed to programs like the Productive Safety Net Program. The Productive Safety Net Program or PSNP has was established in 2005 by the Ethiopian government with donor aid to analyze and tackle hunger problems within the nation. As a result poverty has decreased and there are promising signs for the future of the nation. In order to continue the success it is vital that Sub-Saharan Africa continue to develop program like the PSNP with donor aid until the day comes that the region can help itself.
While water scarcity is something we don’t typically encounter here in the United States we certainly have a problem with water management and use. The United States alone wastes 7 billion gallons of water a day (thinkprogress.org) and 1.7 trillion gallons a year (thinkprogress.org). Seven billion gallons; not in a year, or month , or week, in a single day. This is evidence that while we may be able to attain and harness water at will, we in the states lack the awareness to use our water efficiently. This is an extremely eye opening statistic when contrasted with the daily use of an African family (five gallons a day). Imagine if we could somehow configure a way to use our wasted water to help people that don’t have any, now that would be truly brilliant.
In conclusion despite small improvements, there is an abundance of reasons that the poor use and management of water continue to lead to poverty. Sub-Saharan Africa is a naturally arid and dry region that does not benefit from consistent rainfall this puts immediately the area at a natural disadvantage. Most countries in the region have running water but these nations do not enjoy the privilege of abundant water that we enjoy here in the United States, this lack of water leads to sections of poverty throughout the region. While programs like the Productive Safety Net Program in Ethiopia have aided in eliminating hunger, eradicating hunger could take decades and will take so much more, financially and executively. It’s our world. We are one race and it is up to all of us, as human beings, to do our part to solve this problem.
Burney, Jennifer A. “The Case for Distributed Irrigation as a Development Priority in Sub-Saharan Africa.” The Case for Distributed Irrigation as a Development Priority in Sub-Saharan Africa. PNAS, 30 July 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.
Hanjra, Munir A. “Reducing Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa through Investments in Water and Other Priorities.” Reducing Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa through Investments in Water and Other Priorities. ScienceDirect, July 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.
Descheemaeker, Katrien. “Improving Water Productivity in Mixed Cropâ“livestock Farming Systems of Sub-Saharan Africa.” Improving Water Productivity in Mixed Cropâ“livestock Farming Systems of Sub-Saharan Africa. ScienceDirect, May 2010. Web. 10 Dec. 2013
Cassman, Kenneth. “Can There Be a Green Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa without Large Expansion of Irrigated Crop Production?” Can There Be a Green Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa without Large Expansion of Irrigated Crop Production? ScienceDirect, Sept. 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.
In Elizabeth Weise’s article in USA Today, Weise writes about the ongoing battle in Washington state over the labeling of genetically modified foods and, more specifically, initiative 522. Initiative 522 would allow consumers to discern which foods are genetically modified and which products have been genetically engineered. This article is not a discussion of whether or not genetically modified foods are good or bad, rather it is about the consumer’s right to know what the product they are buying really is. Naturally the main obstruction is how much it would cost to label all of these products.
I feel that people have the right to know what is going into their body, as such i feel it is perfectly reasonable that initiative 522 be passed. I am somewhat of a health freak myself and I like to be informed. While it would be costly to label the foods that are genetically modified foods, the chemicals and enhancements given to these “natural” foods can be harmful to humans. Isn’t that reason enough?
Weise, Elizabeth. “Washington State Battles over Genetically Modified Food.” USA Today. Gannett, 8 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.
In this blog Michael Pollan, a well respected and acclaimed writer (writer of four New York Times bestsellers) shares his views on proposition 37. Proposition 37 would have required genetically altered food to carry a label allowing consumers to better select foods that haven’t been tampered with at the genetic and chemical level. Pollan’s stance is that supply and demand has made it so that corporations that proved food at the industrial level have to engineer their products to be ready faster at the expense of the natural process.
This article was written before proposition 37 was rejected so it was an article that was angled with the hope that the proposition would pass. I have to agree with not only Pollan but anyone and everyone who voted for propsition 37 to pass. We as a human race are of the natural world and it my belief that our food should be of that same realm. Tampering with foods is not natural and i believe as a consumer i have the right to know where my food came from.
Pollan, Michael. “Vote for the Dinner Party.” Michael Pollan. Michaelpolan.com, 10 Oct. 2012. Web. 26 Sept. 2013.
In this post (“White House Convening on Food Marketing Towards Children”) Marion Nestle, a well respected columnist who writes for the San Francisco Chronicle discusses her opinion on the practice of large corporations marketing tactics towards children and how it is unethical to take such an approach. Nestle includes an excerpt from a speech that Michelle Obama gave as a part of her “Let’s Move” initiative, a program developed to help fight childhood obesity. In the excerpt provided by Nestle the First Lady admits that a variety of companies have increased awareness and are doing their part to ensure that marketing that targets children is ethical and more importantly doesn’t advertise foods that are detrimental to our youth’s health. Nestle shares Obama’s views and also adds that she believes this “holds the possibility of opening the door to further discussion”.
I have to agree with both Nestle and the First Lady. If we cannot promote and advertise foods that are beneficial to our youth how can we hope to have a healthy future, literally and figuratively. While i can understand that a large corporation makes decisions based on an economic standpoint I believe that marketing to children just to cut a profit is wrong. For our future’s sake we need more people like Nestle spreading the word.