By Vivienne Irikefe, Nairobi
Participants at the first Africa Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in Nairobi Kenya, have called for collaboration between governments and donor agencies to tackle the perennial deficit of water and sanitation in Africa.
The Forum also emphasized the need for funds to reform existing institutions and train skilled professionals to provide efficient water supply and design functional human and material waste disposal systems and infrastructure.
About 4.2 billion people lack adequate water and sanitation worldwide according to the World Health Organisation and Africa has the highest percentage. Reducing by half the number of people who don’t have access to basic sanitation is a key target of the United Nations’ 2015 Millennium Development Goals.
A participant,Paul Ginies, from the International Institute for water and Environmental Engineering Burkina Faso, said that it is unfortunate that Africa lacks qualified engineers in essential areas in water management, irrigation and sanitation.
“For 25 years technology cannot operate in Africa” and that for twenty years people thought that the NGOs will bring solutions and not much has been seen” he said.
He stressed that awareness is fundamental for people to be able to differentiate between clean water and safe drinking water.
A science programme specialist with UNESCO, Alexandros Makarigakis said the Africa water vision for 2025 for equitable and sustainable use of water for socio-economic development has to be reviewed. “The vision was a very innovative document at the time it was conceptualized but since then new challenges have surfaced like climate change which will change not only the current surface water resources quantities but will put additional pressure on ground water systems” he argued.
Dr Makarigakis explained that due to climate change the rainfall patterns will alter having extreme events taking place more often like floods and droughts. This affects agriculture and food production which is basically the livelihood of the ordinary man in Africa who relies on rain fed agriculture.
Another participant Prof. Abdalla Abdelsalam Ahmed from Islamic University, Sudan called for water resources assessment and evaluation in Africa focusing on providing people with the knowledge for saving water as a precious gift.
As a part of innovation, a chemist Dr. Florence Tobo Lobe from Cameroon suggested that in places with scarcity of water, humidity in the air can be captured as water to be purified for drinking and other uses.
The session also highlighted the importance of community involvement and how African youths can take advantage of the immense job opportunities in the fields of water and sanitation.