The day after the world celebrated the international water day is a good time to take stock of how people survive and become resilient in the face of water scarcity. The world emphasizes the need to re-use and reduce waste water but the big question is whether this theme reflects the Africa situation. Yes, it does and it sadly reveals that despite the abundance of natural water sources, Africa continues to struggle with an acute water crisis. With emerging cases of shortages – though severe but rarely discussed, the springs and wells are drying and decaying water infrastructures, Africa can no longer look on.
Owe village is located in Akinyele Local Government Area, Oyo State. The road leading to the village is threatened by erosion, no electricity pole is spotted near the village, the health center is not functional and they have no market. An artificial water pond is the only water source available in the village because a mono-pump constructed in 2009 by UNDP is dilapidated. We are all awash with stories that water is colourless and odourless – not in this case. The water pond in Owe is coloured, but it is what has sustained the village for about 5 years now.
James Abah, one of the villagers who migrated from Benue state narrates that “the issue has also been worsened by climate change, poor management of water projects and a lack of political will to deal with the crisis have left the villagers with no option that to survive with this water pond.”
Owe, a village of about 500 people is on the verge of an epidemic that may break out as a result of this water problem. Shortly after interacting with Abah, a woman came to fetch from the dirty pond – meaning she uses that water to cook for her family, exposing people, especially children to water-borne diseases and infection.
The Baale of Owe did not hide his displeasure. He claimed so many politicians visit the area during the election period for the campaign and later abandoned the community after securing their votes. At some point in the course of the investigation, he recounted the bitter experience of how villagers trek for about 20 kilometers to get water, once the pond dries up during the dry season.
Kakun village is also facing its share of the crisis amidst gully erosion which has washed away a large part of the settlement. Like Owe, a water project was constructed by UNDP and UN Habit in 2009. Presently, the water source available in the community is polluted and exposed to harmful substances. The result has been tragic: the people, including the children, are suffering from severe cases of malnourishment and the hygiene condition of the village is terrible.
What is more infuriating is the position of the Akinyele Local Government Authority. The head of Administration admitted that “there is an urgent need to carry out repairs and reconstruction of water infrastructure but regretted that the Local Government is presently handicapped financially”. He stressed that the local government is only interested in paying the backlog of salaries it owes workers and may not be able to execute any capital project.”
A recent report by Water Aid suggests that in Nigeria, water services cannot be delivered quickly enough to cope with the rapidly growing population. As a result, more than 63 million people live without access to safe water and denying about 130 million people access to adequate sanitation.
The report also identifies that rural people are the most vulnerable, as they resort to buy water from private vendors, which most cannot afford and that local governments often do not have the funds to make necessary improvements and can instead be forced to use short-term solutions which cannot be maintained by the communities who need them.
For the people of Owe and Kakun villages in Akinyele Local Government Area, water crisis which has made life unbearable for the two communities. The scarcity is also triggering conflicts in the communities, as people fight for resources. First of all, the traditional institution and stakeholders have taken over ownership of this challenge and declared their readiness to safeguard future water projects within the localities.
With Africa’s vulnerability towards having severe water shortage visible, we have to stop wasting the water we have and collaborate to give Owe and Kakun people a new lease of life.