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Water Decline or Water Grab: Is Climate Change or Globalisation Drying Water Sources in Africa?

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Rutten, Marcel
Conference: Commoners and the Changing Commons: Livelihoods, Environmental Security, and Shared Knowledge, the Fourteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Mt. Fuji, Japan
Conf. Date: June 3-7
Date: 2013
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/8962
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Africa
Subject(s): globalization
Maasai (African people)
water management
land tenure and use
Abstract: "Water is a basic need and an important catalyst for accelerating economic development in semi-arid areas. But an unseen emergency is continuing to unfold due to competition over water because of a deepening globalisation of agricultural production, changes in land tenure and population growth. The availability of water in semi-arid Kenya among Maasai pastoralists has been studied since the late 1980s. Initial success stories could be reported as a result of a mix of rapidly spreading water sources triggered by land tenure changes and a congruent effort to improve traditional water provision techniques, in particular shallow wells. Many Maasai pastoralists took up small scale cultivation which made them food secure and many left the ranks of the poor. In recent years these wells started drying. Several possible causes were studied including claims of climate change and competition from other water users. From 2005 onwards a growing number of shallow wells started to dry. Information of all boreholes and (nearly) dried shallow wells was recorded. The survey concluded that since the subdivision of group ranches (mid-1980s), land had become a commodity allowing new landowners to settle. In particular, the arrival of commercial agriculture resulted in the sinking of (too) many deep boreholes responsible for draining the aquifers. Indications are that the water table has fallen by over 50m in the last 10 years. This is an inconvenient truth for all stakeholders, but certainly the shallow well owners. Commercial (flower) farms own 32 boreholes causing the drying of some 100 wells by 2010. Lessons learned indicate that local communities face an uphill battle to safeguard water in an age of globalisation. Besides technological innovations decentralization of water governance is a first requisite to address these problems."

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