The Horn Of Africa States: Desertification And Water Supplies – OpEd

By Dr. Suleiman Walhad

The region faces multiple challenges, most of them man-made and hence could be handled. Others are natural such as volcanic activities, land formation, geological infrastructures and, in fact, strategic location. Both man-made and natural phenomenon, however, affect peoples’ lives in the region from food security to water availability to economic production in terms of agricultural, marine and pastoral production, that till this date, remain the main stay of livelihoods in the region.

The region is large and hosts a youthful growing population of some 160 million, which has to be fed, housed, educated, employed, and whose health has to be maintained. However, the natural evolution of the region is being challenged at every front by both man-made and natural disasters. The man-made challenges, themselves comprise of domestic and foreign-inspired factors

The region is drying and receives lesser rains each passing year. Much of the forest lands are cut and hence shrinking, either as fuel for fire and cooking or clear spaces for agriculture, which itself is becoming less productive year after year. This is bad news for the region. Deforestation of the region through the continuing climate change and the warmer weather has affected the terrain and the land extremely negatively to the extent that, the region is becoming desertic and water security is no longer assured.

The economic profile of the region has worsened over the past four decades and this is the period when civil conflicts, inefficient and corrupt governance have remained rampant in the region. The Somali State is worst affected, while Ethiopia the most stable country in the region for over a hundred years, have been destabilized over the past decade, with the new federal regions playing to the tunes of foreign-inspired conspiracies.

The region even hosts foreign forces including those of the United States, China, France, Spain, Germany, and Italy and others such as those of the newly wealthy nations of the Arabian peninsula, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Its transboundary rivers have also strained relations with other neighboring countries such as Egypt and Sudan, who depend on the waters of the Nile sourced from the region and have hence all have negatively affected its food production, its energy requirements, and its general security.



Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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