At the opening event of World Water Week in Stockholm on Sunday, water and climate experts called for a water revolution in sub-Saharan Africa to help alleviate hunger and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute, the annual meeting — whose theme this year is Water for Sustainable Growth — brings together experts, practitioners, decision makers, and entrepreneurs engaged in water and development issues. According to a report released earlier this month by SIWI, changes in water supply are contributing to food insecurity across large portions of sub-Saharan Africa, which in turn is driving mass displacement and migration Indeed, the drylands encircling the Congo Basin are home to some 750 million people, a number that is expected to increase to 1.6 billion over the next thirty-five years. Meanwhile, agricultural yields in the region are low, on average around one ton per hectare, as a result of frequent droughts. At a World Water Week panel, experts from SIWI, the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the Stockholm Environment Institute, and the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center called for the widespread adoption of rainwater harvesting and other green water management techniques in the region as part of a Triple Green Revolution in Africa that includes more productive use of green water (rain that infiltrates into, and is stored in, the soil), enhanced food production, and building greater water resilience in watersheds.
"Large parts of the world are struggling to adapt to a drier reality, but challenges are especially dire in Africa's drylands. Africa's climate is its Achilles' heel," said Malin Falkenmark, senior scientific advisor to SIWI.
On Tuesday, the winner of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition for young scientists and innovators was announced, while Wednesday will see the presentation of the Stockholm Water Prize to Michigan State University professor Joan B. Rose for her work on water-related risks to human health and the development of guidelines and tools for improving global public health. SIWI, together with Xylem and the Raincoat Foundation, also have announced the launch of Water Tank, a platform designed to connect the Junior Water Prize competition's finalists with the SIWI and World Water Week community and provide the guidance, input, and support they need to commercialize their projects.
"Initiatives like the Green Water Initiative in Africa, within the framework of the 2030 Agenda, is of great importance if we will have any chance of realizing the Sustainable Development Goals," said SIWI executive director Torgny Holmgren. "I hope to see some concrete response to this call."