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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (PAMACC News) - Installing more boreholes to tap underground water will improve rural Ethiopian communities’ resilience to drought, according to a new report.A new study carried out by the British Geological Survey (BGS), the University of Addis Ababa and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) showed that people who have access to groundwater from boreholes are much less affected by drought than those who rely on wells or springs for their water supply. The report also links the shortage of water to conflict in local areas to migration, a decline in breastfeeding rates, a rise in miscarriage rates, and more children missing school.Groundwater experts from the BGS monitored 19 hand-dug wells, springs and boreholes in two districts in northern Ethiopia over 18 months. They also held focus-group discussions with local people, including school and health centre staff, near each of the groundwater sources.The team found that boreholes drilled to 50–100 m were the most reliable source of water during the extended drought of 2015–16 and through the dry season. “We found that boreholes equipped with hand pumps were more reliable than springs or hand-dug wells, and this reliability was not affected by drought or seasonal change. As hand-dug wells dried up and springs failed, the boreholes we monitored gave exactly the same flow throughout the year,” said Prof Alan MacDonald, the BGS hydrogeologist who led the research.He noted that boreholes also had better water quality. “As the drought ended and rain started falling many of the springs and hand-dug wells became grossly contaminated. The boreholes performed much better, with less than half of them showing any level of contamination,” he said.The findings make a clear case for the installation of more boreholes to improve resilience to drought. If constructed carefully and regularly maintained, Prof MacDonald believes that boreholes can transform the water security for rural villages and make them much more resilient to the effects of climate change.According to Dr Seifu Kebede from Addis Ababa University’s earth sciences department, a significant finding of the study is the length of time people without boreholes spent in water collection during the dry season and drought, and the very low volumes of water they were able to collect.“People were routinely queuing for up to 10 hours, which led to tension and sometimes violence, and had wide-ranging impact across communities. Women breastfed less and experienced more miscarriages, meals were missed and farm work was reduced to help collect water. School attendance was down in all but one district, as children were involved in water collection,” said Dr Kebede noting that all health centres in the study area reported increases in diseases, and, in some cases, employees were paying for water collection to keep the centres functioning.“We must look at how communities source water during a normal dry season to predict how they will cope during drought years. This study shows that boreholes, where they can be installed, could be the most reliable source of groundwater in these areas of northern Ethiopia,” he…
It has long been clear that agriculture needs more young people, not only to secure Africa's future food security but to modernize farming and keep pace with a changing world. But what is it about agriculture that young people need? The answer may lie in the fresh opportunities created by digitalisation. New technologies are transforming farming systems across the world, including in developing countries. Innovations range from drones that help detect crop pests earlier to mobile systems that link previously “unbankable” smallholder farmers with vital financial services. For the 12 million young people entering into the workforce in Africa each year, this could all help make farming and food production much more appealing. For starters, new and emerging technology means that agriculture does not have to be the backbreaking sector it was for previous generations. Digital tools are helping to automate and streamline the more labour-intensive aspects of farming, making it more efficient and therefore, attractive – and viable - as a livelihood. With the support of digital tools, “precision agriculture” can become efficient, allowing farmers to plant and cultivate their crops with greater accuracy. This means less time, effort and inputs are wasted, and as a result, the economic appeal of agriculture is clearer. Second, and with Africa facing a serious shortage of jobs for the increasingly young population, agriculture can provide opportunities lacking in rapidly urbanised areas. More than 70 per cent of registered digital users in Africa, for instance, are between 15 to 35 years old. By coupling this digital savviness with rural opportunities, young people can have an exciting and prosperous future. Finally, these young people will no doubt be attracted to the new entrepreneurial possibilities and employment opportunities that digitalisation brings, not just in food production but across the entire agricultural value chain. These opportunities range from designing new platforms or software to making use of technology and creating access to new markets using blockchain. One such example is the EzyAgric solution based in Uganda. The platform provides access to finance and markets for farmers and agribusinesses through a network of youth agents equipped with smartphones and other digital technology. It creates an employment opportunity for Uganda’s youth, at one end, and helps farmers improve yields and market access at the other. Likewise, Wennovation Hub, or ‘WeHub’, is a Nigerian innovation platform that fosters innovation among Africa’s young entrepreneurs. It encourages them to tackle economic or social challenges head-on, through creating start-ups grounded in local problems and solutions. And Afrimash, a digital marketplace, is one of these innovations. It provides a market for farmers to easily sell or buy their livestock, tools and other quality inputs ranging from pesticides to fertilisers. It is no wonder then, that development funding from across the world, from both private and public sector players, is already directed at supporting Africa’s youth entrepreneurship – much of it within the agricultural space. But digitalisation for agriculture is not a silver bullet, and as we have seen, enabling policies, infrastructural investments and…
PAMACC News - The Africa’s first-ever Wikipedia edit-a-thon, organized by Climate Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) and Future Climate for Africa (FCFA),has opened the door for African climate experts and researchers to boost the quality and quantity of climate change information on Wikipedia, the largest world encyclopedia and currently the super-highway of information for ordinary people across Africa. For 3 days, 30 participants from Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, converged together with veteran Wikipedia editors to learn, update content and initiate a vital bedrock that stamps African climate change research within Wikipedia, which gets up to 20 billion pages viewed each month, according to Wikimedia statistics. At the moment, Wikipedia furnishes readily accessible information to the larger global audience of millions. Available data indicates Africa’sinternet penetration to be at 39.8 percent, compared to 60.5 percent of the rest of the world, plus the continent has a telecommunication sector which is growing fast. Further, Alexa Internet ranked Wikipedia to be one of the popular websites in the world as of June 2019, placing it at the top of the internet food chain.This means that having reliable, customized and well-packaged information on Wikipedia, real-time climate change threats on food security, water resources, agricultural production, and ecosystem services could be addressed timely and swiftly, by decisive actions backed with verified information.This means that having reliable, customized and well-packaged information on Wikipedia has potential to reach decision-makers on the continent who can use it to address climate change threats to food security, water resources, agricultural production, and ecosystem services. And yet availability of this impeded by the fact that only a fraction of editors are from Sub-Saharan Africa.Out of 70,000 editors globally only 1000 are from sub-Saharan Africa. It is therefore not surprising for African climate change information to be under-represented in the internet. The edit-a-thon came about to instigate improved African representation in various pages with real-time information casting light on climate change issues, but also to lead the way for researchers to contribute their findings effectively to Wikipedia, increasing their global exposure and the impact of their research. Available data on Wikipedia interaction across the world indicates that 97 percent of all reads are in the English language, but Wikis exist in many more languages.According to Dr. Katharine Vincent a climate change expert from Kulima Integrated Development Solutions in South Africa, “A big aim of Wikipedia is to decolonize knowledge and a major way of doing that is making information available in languages other than English. English was the common language among all participants, although obviously many other languages are known. We had a number of Francophone participants who edited pages in French as well as English, and others also have plans to edit in non-European languages in the future” she added. The edit-a-thon carved its groundwork on high impact pages which needed a robust update of vital information on climate change adaptation, climate change in Africa, drylands, and agriculture. As participants shared information updating…
DODOMA, Tanzania (PAMACC News) - Mention of the word El Niño sends shivers to several communities in Africa who live in lowland areas. However, these extreme rainfall phenomena are exactly what Dodoma desperately needs to sustain lives of the speedy growing population in Tanzania’s capital city.A team of local and international scientists from Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and University College London (UCL) in collaboration with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation including the WamiRuvu Basin Water Board have been studying the Makutapora well-field (the only source of water for Dodoma city) to understand how the groundwater responds to different climatic conditions and human consumption.“Through our research, we are seeking to understand groundwater resources in Makutapora, the renewability, the sustainability and critically how people use this precious resource,” said Richard Taylor, a Professor of Hydrogeology at the UCL and the Principal Investigator for a project known as GroFutures.And after a few years of intensive research, the scientists have discovered that the well-field found in an area mainly characterised by usually seasonal rivers, vegetation such as acacia shrubs, cactus trees, baobab among others that thrive in dryland areas can only be recharged during extreme floods that often destroy agricultural crops and even property.Dodoma became Tanzania’s capital city in 1974, though the administrative offices remained in Dar Es Salaam. Given a fact that the entire Dodoma region is semi-arid with an average annual rainfall of 550 mm, the current population of about 500,000 residents entirely rely on groundwater from the Makutapora well-field, from which they pump out 61 million litres of water every day, according to government records.However, since 2016 when President John Pombe Magufuli issued an executive order to relocate all government ministries and institutions as well as diplomatic offices from Dar Es Salaam to Dodoma, the city has become a beehive of activities as people and authorities rush to put in place the right infrastructure to accommodate the expected rise in population.As a result, the demand for water is expected to rise amid the changing climatic conditions, putting much more pressure on the Makutapora well-field.“Makutapora is quite a special site, given that it is the longest known groundwater level record in Sub Saharan Africa,” said Prof Taylor. “A study of the well-field over the past 60 years reveals that recharge sustaining the daily pumping of water for use in Dodoma city occurs episodically and depends on heavy seasonal rainfall associated with El Niño Southern Oscillation,” said the professor.So far, according to the loggers (data registering equipments) installed in several monitoring wells within the Makurapora basin, the water level has been declining since 2016 when positive recharge was recorded following the 2015-16 El Niño rains. The scientists attribute the decline to heavy abstraction of the water for domestic use, but also, they are in the process of finding out if tough climatic conditions, changes and variations could be another factor.“In the end of the year 2015, we installed river stage gauges to record the amount of water in the streams. Through…
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