The role of ground water in Sub-Saharan Africa
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Although water resources managers speak of a water crisis in Africa, the management of ground water has to date not featured strongly in national and regional African water agendas. Examination of the physical environment of the continent and, in particular, the water resources in relation to the socioeconomic landscape and regional development challenges makes it clear that widely occurring, albeit largely low-yielding, ground water resources will be crucial in the achievement of water security and development. Ground water is important primarily in domestic water and sanitation services, but also for other local productive needs like community gardens, stock watering, and brick-making, all essential to secure a basic livelihood and thus to alleviate poverty. Despite the importance of small-scale farming in Africa, there is little information on the present and potential role of ground water in agriculture. In contrast to its socioeconomic and ecological importance, ground water has remained a poorly understood and managed resource. Widespread contamination of ground water resources is occurring, and the important environmental services of ground water are neglected. There appear to be critical shortcomings in the organizational framework and the building of institutional capacity for ground water. Addressing this challenge will require a much clearer understanding and articulation of ground water’s role and contribution to national and regional development objectives and an integrated management framework, with topdown facilitation of local actions.