LONDON (AlertNet) - A scramble for cheap African farmland by foreign investors threatens to leave millions of people without water and could ultimately drain the continent's rivers, a report warns.
Nalubaale hydroelectric power station across the White Nile near to its source at Lake Victoria in Uganda. Africa's longest river, the Nile is a lifeline especially for Egypt, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda, and is already a source of significant geopolitical tensions aggravated by the numerous large-scale irrigation projects in the region. Photo Anette Tjomsland
By Emma Batha, AlertNet
"If these land grabs are allowed to continue, Africa is heading for a hydrological suicide," said the report’s co-author Henk Hobbelink, coordinator of GRAIN, an organisation supporting small farmers.
Foreign governments and wealthy individuals are snapping up millions of hectares of land on the continent for large-scale agriculture projects to grow food and biofuels for export.
But the report
warns there is simply not enough water in Africa's rivers and water tables to irrigate all the newly acquired land.
In some cases communities are already being moved off land to make way for these mega-projects. In others, the plantations will divert water from rivers that local people depend on for their own farming and everyday needs.
"Millions of Africans are in danger of losing access to the water sources they rely on for their livelihoods and for the survival of their communities," Hobbelink said.
“The worst case scenario is indeed we end up with a situation where the entire continent’s river systems will dry out.”
Hobbelink said the land deals – many of them along the Nile and Niger rivers - were already creating tensions in some parts and could fuel conflict.
Countries leasing land include Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt, Zambia, Kenya Tanzania, Mali and Senegal.
The report, Squeezing Africa dry: behind every land grab is a water grab,
said those acquiring farmland knew that the access to water they were automatically gaining – often without restriction - could well be worth more in the long term than the land deals themselves.
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