Climate Change and Groundwater in the SADC Region
Climate Change and Groundwater in the SADC Region
Climate change induced severe weather events and changes in rainfall patterns have a visible and devastating impact on water and food security in the SADC region.
The role of groundwater across the region has never been so pronounced, with what is being called a crisis in parts of the region where at least 11 million people are facing critical food shortages due to the drought which is caused by climate change.
In Zimbabwe, for example the country is close to running out of its staple crop of maize where production in the vital commodity is down by 53 percent year on year. In Zambia, an estimated 2.3 million people are in danger of starvation as climate change and drought take hold. “2019 drought was unprecedented, causing food shortages on a scale we have never seen before”, said Dr Michael Charles, Head of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Southern Africa Cluster.
Around 41.2 million people in 13 countries are affected by water and food insecurity, this is according to the SADC 2019 Synthesis Report on the state of Food and Nutrition
Security and Vulnerability in Southern Africa, which was released in Namibia in July 2019. “We are seeing people going two to three days without food, entire herds of livestock wiped out by drought and small-scale farmers with no means to earn money to tide them over a lean season.” Continued Dr Michael Charles. Countries with most significant increase in food insecurity from last year are Zambia and Zimbabwe, with 2.3 million and 3.6 million people respectively in need of food aid.
Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia have this year declared drought emergencies. In Eswatini, 24 percent of its rural population is suffering from food shortages. The situation is set to worsen due to late or no rain in the region and crop production is down by 30 percent for the year 2019/2020.
Groundwater can be a buffer during the dry season when there is no rain and mitigate the impacts of climate change since it is not susceptible to evaporation. During times of severe water scarcity groundwater has always became more than a helpful resource – it can be a difference between life and death.
In the wake of climate change and its impact in the SADC region, SADC- Groundwater Management Institute in collaboration with other implementing partners are pulling their weight to ensure that vulnerable communities have safe and clean drinking water. The initiatives undertaken by SADC-GMI are aligned with its core mandate of “promoting sustainable groundwater management and provide solutions to groundwater challenges across the SADC region”.
Groundwater Mapping and Development in Chongwe District, Republic of Zambia
In collaboration with the governments in the SADC region, SADC-GMI has implemented a number of initiatives to ensure that vulnerable communities have drinking water. One of those projects is the water supply project in Chongwe, Zambia. Chongwe is an urban settlement located some 50 km east of the Zambian capital city of Lusaka, with more 100 000 people who rely on groundwater for their water needs. This settlement was experiencing serious water shortages caused by a number of factors such as increased demand due to population growth, the effects of climate change, rainfall variability, as well as over-abstraction of surface water. The project implemented by SADC-GMI involved the characterisation of a local aquifer in the Chongwe region to determine its sustainable yield and drilling of three boreholes to augment the existing water supply in the community.
Water Supply – Exploring deep Aquifer Project in Chimbiya Malawi
The impacts of climate change have worsened water security especially to the poor rural communities due to the scarcity of surface water resources and the recession of shallow groundwater resources across the SADC region. This scenario influenced SADC-GMI, in partnership with the Malawian Government and Water Mission Malawi to implement a project at Chimbiya Trading Centre to explore deep aquifers by drilling a borehole, equipping it with motorised electric pump, then reticulating the water to ten communal-style distribution points around the community which resulted in clean and safe drinking water for the community. The project that was commissioned to the community on the 13th of February 2020 is supplying water to 15000 inhabitants in Chimbiya Trading Centre. Prior to the project water scarcity in Chimbiya was a huge challenge, affecting the people’s livelihoods. The water scarcity exposed community members to water bone diseases and other social ills. Women and girls often woke up as early as 3am and walked long distances to fetch water for domestic use. The installation of the new water supply scheme has effectively freed time for the women and girls to engage more in economic and social improvement activities.
These projects are part of the 12 Sub-grant pilot projects SADC-GMI is currently implementing in 10 SADC Member States under the Sustainable Groundwater Management in SADC Member States project, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) through the World Bank.
SADC-GMI in collaboration with other regional partners bringing water closer to the people!!!