East Africa; Enough in the Nile to Share, Little to Waste: Lessons for Nigeria

East Africa; Enough in the Nile to Share, Little to Waste: Lessons for Nigeria

IRIN, November 16, 2012

Addis Ababa — As Ethiopia’s massive dam-building plans continue to cause disquiet in downstream Egypt, new research suggests there is sufficient water in the Nile for all 10 countries it flows through, and that poverty there could be significantly eased as long as access by small-scale farmers is boosted.

“We would argue that physically there is enough water in the Nile for all the riparian countries,” said Simon Langan, head of the East Africa and Nile Basin office of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), at the Addis Ababa launch of The Nile River Basin: Water, Agriculture, Governance and Livelihoods published by the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food.

“What we really need to do is make sure that there is access to this water… Poverty rates are about 17 percent in Egypt but for five of the upstream riparian countries it is more like 50 percent. So, this access to water is very important,” he added.

According to a media advisory promoting the book, the Nile “has enough water to supply dams and irrigate parched agriculture in all 10 countries – but policymakers risk turning the poor into water ‘have-nots’ if they don’t enact inclusive water management policies.”

While better seeds and tools play a key role in boosting agricultural productivity, access to water is even more important, said one of the book’s editors, Seleshi Bekele, senior water resources and climate specialist at the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

“The higher water access you have the less the poverty profile… This is not only in comparison between Egypt and upstream countries: within Ethiopia itself, 22 percent less poor were observed in those communities who have access to water,” he said.

Access “means that girls can go to school, instead of fetching water from distance that could take hours,” he added.

Smallholder farmers, who rely on rainwater to irrigate their crops, could similarly benefit from policies that give them greater access to water in the Nile basin.

The book calls for investment to adopt agricultural water management (AWM) policies, which include irrigation and rainwater collection, so that water-scarce parts of the region are able to grow enough food.


One can equally and confidently say that there is enough to share in the international rivers that drain Nigeria.

Nigeria is blessed with abundant water resources but experiences water scarcity because of poor management. Though no detailed assessment and quantification of Nigeria’s water resources potential has ever been conducted, it is strongly believed that the country has abundant water resources – surface and ground water. Annual rainfall in the Eighties ranged between greater 500 mm in the northwest to 2,700 mm in the southeast (JICA, 1995). The country is drained by several perennial rivers, some that flow into the Niger and Benue while other river systems such as the Hadeji-Jamaare, Kaduna, Cross River, Ogun, Osun and others are good sources of surface water.

The total annual surface water has been estimated to be between 6,120  and 10,000 cubic meters per second. The damming of two major rivers (Niger and Benue) by upstream riparians should not cause any anxiety for Nigeria. What should cause anxiety is how upstream riparians manage their excess flows. The recent improper management of releases from Lagdo dam is a case in point. (See another blog  by this blogger on the challenges Nigeria faces in the management of its international waters – https://weircentreforafrica.com/?s=The+sleeping+giant+of+Africa- ).  How about the proposed Kandaji Dam? It is believed that if this dam is constructed it will jeopardize Nigeria’s hydroelectric installations at Kainji.

What is lacking in Nigeria is seriousness of purpose concerning its handling of issues that pertain to its international waters and lip service approach to managing its waters in an integrated manner.


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