Panel discussion on drought resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa held in Bonn

“Improving agricultural water management is one of the key requirements for increasing resilience and adaptation to climate change in agriculture. The international community, particularly the German Development Cooperation should be more ambitious regarding agricultural water management and promote national development strategies for the agricultural water sub-sector,” Dr Waltina Scheumann, the German Development Institute.

This was among the solutions that were explored during a panel discussion titled: ‘Improving drought resilience of Sub-Saharan agriculture: opportunities and challenges in irrigation and water governance’ with Zambia the focal point. The two and half-hour discussion was held on 27 June and hosted by the German Development Institute (DIE) in Bonn, Germany.

The three panellists were Dr Waltina Scheumann, a researcher from DIE, Professor Tobias Haller from the University of Bern, Switzerland, and Peter Cattelaens from Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Dr Scheumann stressed the important role that water plays in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. She argued that investment in agricultural water means increasing yields; extension of cropping periods and cycles; the cultivation of a broader spectrum of crops, stabilizing of food production; farmers are encouraged to invest and create jobs along the value chain.

Using Zambia as a case study, Professor Haller, said recognition of local knowledge cannot be overlooked. “Water reforms often do not consider locally developed constellations since colonial times. Failure to address locally developed rules for the management of resources and failure to develop bottom up institutions are some of the obstacles that should be considered,” said Professor Haller. Among the major challenges that Zambia faces, according to Mr Cattelaens, are climate change, lack of data on how much water is used and water resources governance. To address some of these issues in Zambia, Mr Cattelaens informed the audience that Germany has contributed 6.2 million Euros to assist with water resources management and climate change adaptation.

The discussion is part of an ongoing event series on drought resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa that commenced on 6 April 2017 and will last until 13 July 2017.  According to DIE, the aim of the entire event series is to shed light on four interconnected topics around drought which include: role that drought, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, play in food security; how drought resilience can be strengthened; how  integrated approaches and institutional coherence can be found in order to identify solutions and how a dialogue is needed between scientists and development practitioners to challenge conventional wisdoms, to evaluate old and find new solutions.

The discussion was organised by DIE in partnership with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Universität Bonn, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Zentrum für Entwicklungsforschung (ZEF), Deutsche Welle (DW), Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ).

Author: Nteboheng Phakisi, 28.06.2017