Tiger Reserve in IndiaThe opening of a tiger reserve along the Vaigai River in India offers hope that more conservation efforts will replenish the dried-up river. Once a vast, plentiful river that farmers relied on for crop cultivation and drinking water, this body of water has largely dried up. Many citizens and conservationists look forward to the preservation efforts now that India has directed efforts into preserving the surrounding land. Hopefully, the new tiger reserve will improve water insecurity and agriculture in India through the revival of the Vaigai River. 

What Happened to the Vaigai River?

The Vaigai River is dry for almost 300 days a year due to poor maintenance over the last 30 years. Sewage drainage and insufficient silt removal have changed both the quality and quantity of the water. Moreover, drought and inadequate rainfall have also been contributors to the depletion of the river. In fact, this year was the first time that the Vaigai Dam had enough water to release in 12 years. Additionally, the insufficient rainfall can be partially attributed to the rapid deforestation India has faced. 

Further, the sewage in the water has made the river a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Moreover, India carries 2% of global malaria deaths and 85.2% of Southeast Asia’s malaria burden. The country has made significant strides in malaria case reduction. However, this issue puts residents along the river at risk for infection.

Why the River Is Important

Residents in three districts receive their daily drinking water from the Vaigai Dam. This is significant as less than 50% of the Indian population has access to clean drinking water. Also, at least two-thirds of all Indian districts face water insecurity issues due to groundwater depletion and drought.

In 1959, the Madurai District built the Vaigai Dam to provide drinking water and combat water insecurity for farmers, who rely on the river to irrigate crops such as rice, cotton, peas, black gram and sorghum.

How the Tiger Reserve Can Help

On February 8, 2021, a government order declared two major wildlife sanctuaries would be combined to create a fifth tiger reserve along the Vaigai River. This new reserve will be called the Srivilliputhur Megamalai Tiger Reserve.

Once the reserve is operational, poaching, encroachments and grazing will be outlawed. This will preserve the surrounding land and the river. Experts except the tiger reserve will be in the forests of Meghamalai. This location is ideal as it will protect the land from deforestation and increase rainfall and water flow by acting as a watershed.

The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 will be used to enforce the regulations now that the land surrounding the river is considered protected land. This means poor silt removal practices, sewage drainage and poor maintenance by any government official can result in a fine or jail time. This gives Indian citizens the ability to hold their government accountable for the mismanagement of the river.

A forest official told The Hindu News that “with this new tiger reserve, Vaigai river and its catchment areas will be fully protected. The river, battling for its life, will be saved. This will help in the long-term sustenance of people in several southern districts.”

Looking Forward

This new tiger reserve in India is one of the first protective orders for the land surrounding the Vaigai river. Farmers, conservationists and citizens alike look forward to seeing the Vaigai river return to its former glory, alleviating water insecurity and aiding crop cultivation.

– Camdyn Knox
Photo: Pixabay

Food insecurity crisis in SomaliaSomalia’s climate consists of sporadic periods of intense rainfall between long periods of drought. So far in 2021, a devastating mix of severe droughts, intense floods and locust infestations in Somalia have devastated crop production and livestock herds, leading to a hunger crisis. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the previously high rates of poverty in the country and have contributed to the food insecurity crisis in Somalia. USAID is aiming to combat the hunger crisis in Somalia by providing food assistance while also targeting assistance efforts to limit malnutrition among children and pregnant women.

Causes of the Food Insecurity Crisis in Somalia

Typically, heavy rains strike Somalia between April and June and again between October and December. During the two rainy seasons, extreme rainfall and flooding regularly displace Somalis across the country. However, in 2021, the rainy season ended in May instead of June. This early end caused intense droughts in Somalia.

Rainfall in some areas of Somalia has amounted to only half of the year-to-date average. As a result, deficit farmers in the south and northwest of Somalia have not been able to access water supplies adequate to plant Somalia’s staple crops. Moreover, pastoral households’ inadequate access to water has decreased the size and productivity of livestock herds. The subsequent meat, milk and crop shortage might surge food prices in Somalia.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network projected that the Somali yield of cereal crops in 2021 will be up to 40% less than the yearly average. The drought has already decreased the food and water intake for farmers and pastoralists across Somalia, and low crop and livestock yields in the late summer harvest will lead to lower incomes for farmers and pastoralists. This will limit the purchasing power of Somalis employed in the agriculture sector. Altogether, the drought and subsequent low-yield harvests could extend the risk of a food insecurity crisis in Somalia past the summer.

The State of the Somali Food Insecurity Crisis

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) scale is a system that governments, non-governmental organizations and the U.N. uses to analyze the severity of food insecurity situations. The IPC scale ranges from minimal (IPC Phase 1) to famine (IPC Phase 5). By the middle of 2021, the IPC expects 2.7 million Somalis to encounter at least the crisis level of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3). Specifically, the analysis expects 2.25 million Somalis to be at the crisis level of food insecurity while another 400,100 will be at the emergency level of food insecurity (IPC Phase 4).

COVID-19 in Somalia

While the COVAX initiative and the Somali Federal Government have started the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 in Somalia, the virus continues to devastate the fragile economy. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the poverty rate (percent of the population below $1.90/day, 2011 PPP) in Somalia was at 69%. The poverty rate among Somalis in rural areas was at 72%.

Further, the worldwide COVID-19 induced lockdowns have limited employment opportunities for Somalis working in foreign countries. Consequently, Somalis working internationally are not able to send much money back to their families in Somalia, which heavily supports consumption in the country. Moreover, Somali businesses have reduced their full-time staff by an average of 31% since the pandemic first struck Somalia.

Lastly, a global reduction in demand for Somali livestock has decreased Somali livestock exports by 50% since the beginning of the pandemic, which further weakens the income of already impoverished Somali pastoralists. Thus, the global economic downturn resulting from COVID-19 threatens to intensify the food insecurity crisis in Somalia.

US Aid to Somalia

On June 24, 2021, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a pledge of $20 million in assistance to Somalia. USAID’s aid pledge to Somalia was part of a larger USAID plan to provide a total of $97 million to African countries to combat the health and socioeconomic ramifications of the pandemic. The U.S. aid plan will focus on tackling the food insecurity crisis in Somalia and will supply the country with staple crops like sorghum and yellow split peas. The funding also aims to limit the malnutrition of children and pregnant women.

The aid package builds on a U.S. commitment of $14.7 million in June 2021 to provide drinking water, fight malnutrition and support victims of gender-based violence.

While Somalia’s struggle with poverty and malnutrition is a longstanding and complicated issue, assistance from the U.S. and the rest of the global community could prevent a famine in the short term and boost the country’s economic development in the long term.

– Zachary Fesen
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian crisis in MadagascarThree years of drought and a sharp recession caused by COVID-19 have left a third of Southern Madagascar’s population unable to put food on the table. Extreme malnutrition rates are on the rise and many children are having to beg to help families survive. Immediate action is needed to avert this humanitarian crisis in Madagascar.

Food Insecurity and Malnutrition

In southern Madagascar, the situation has been progressively worsening. The number of people needing humanitarian assistance has doubled to 1.3 million due to “famine-like conditions.” The World Food Programme (WFP) stated that successive droughts and a lack of jobs linked to COVID-19 restrictions are to blame. With 300,000 people in need of safe-living support, governments and humanitarian organizations need to act immediately. Weary communities have few resources to fall back on.

Furthermore, many people have had to leave their homes to search for food and job opportunities. Approximately 1.14 million people, or 35% of Madagascar’s population, are food insecure. This figure is nearly double what it was last year due to the second wave of COVID-19. The pandemic resulted in fewer seasonal employment opportunities between January and April 2021, which affected families relying on this form of income.

Children are the most vulnerable to the food crisis. Many children have dropped out of school to beg for food on the streets. By the end of April 2021, more than 135,00 children were estimated to be acutely malnourished in some way, with 27,000 children between the ages of 6 to 59 months suffering from severe acute malnourishment.

Drought Conditions

According to the WFP, Madagascar’s susceptibility to climate shocks is contributing to the ongoing crisis. A WFP official stated that rains usually fall between November and December. However, the entire area only received one day of rain in December 2020. Thunderstorms have also been wreaking havoc on the fields, destroying and burying the crops.

With markets closed because of COVID-19 restrictions and people forced to sell their possessions to survive, the U.N. warned that drought conditions are expected to persist well into 2021. The anticipated conditions are forcing more people to flee their homes in search of food and jobs. WFP South Africa and Indian Ocean State Region Director Lola Castro explained that “the population of the South relies on casual labor and goes to urban areas or to the fields to really have additional funds that will allow them to survive during the lean season.” However, she noted that “this year there was no labor, they moved around without finding any labor anywhere, both in urban areas or in the rural areas, due to the drought and due to the COVID lockdown.”

Humanitarian Aid

Humanitarian organizations delivered assistance across the Grand Sud, the southernmost region of Madagascar, between January and March 2021. Organizations supplied food aid to 700,000 people and improved access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene for 167,200 people. Furthermore, 93,420 children and pregnant and lactating mothers received dietary care and services. The WFP also provided food assistance to almost 500,000 severely food insecure people in the nine hardest-hit districts in the south. Given the rapidly deteriorating situation, it intends to scale up its assistance to reach almost 900,000 of the most vulnerable by June 2021.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and persistent droughts, the humanitarian crisis in Madagascar is worsening. The country needs more support to fund lifesaving food and cash distributions as well as malnutrition treatment programs. Moving forward, it is essential that the government and humanitarian organizations make addressing the humanitarian crisis in Madagascar a priority.

Aining Liang

Photo: Flickr

Drought in Taiwan
For the first time in nearly 60 years, not a single typhoon hit the island of Taiwan in 2020. With no typhoons and little rain otherwise, the current drought in Taiwan is the worst the country has endured in decades.

Although droughts occur every few years, the current drought in Taiwan has brought water levels in the country to alarmingly low levels. Reservoirs in the country are very dry, with some reaching less than 10% total capacity. So far, the drought has lasted for more than 18 months. With 2021’s rainy season already nearly over, the end for Taiwanese citizens and farmlands is nowhere in sight.

Affecting the Farmers

Doughts have hit Taiwanese farmers particularly hard. The Taiwanese government has stopped irrigating more than 74,000 hectares of farmland. This was to conserve water and protect the island’s booming microchip manufacturing infrastructure. Manufacturing giant Taiwanese Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) reportedly uses up to 156 million liters of water daily while recycling an estimated 86% of consumed water. Farmers have transitioned from traditional crops including rice to low-water crops that include watermelons and sunflowers.

Poverty rates in Taiwan are low in comparison with poverty rates globally — with roughly 1% of the population “poor or belonging to the low-income bracket.” However, the drought in Taiwan will hit the rural poor the hardest. Poor farmers will suffer as landowners accept government subsidies in exchange for leaving farmland fallow. The farmers are unable to speak their minds for fear of angering the landowners.

Manufacturing giants including TSMC can use a portion of the profits to transport truckloads of water from rainier regions in Taiwan. However, farmers have had to resign to sipping tea and bicycling around town as the lands crack under the beating sun. As one Taiwanese farmer, Hsieh Tsai-shan, told the New York Times, “being a farmer is truly the worst.” 

The Struggle to Balance

The historic drought in Taiwan has highlighted shortcomings in the country’s handling of water across the nation. While some chide Taiwanese households for consuming too much water due to low water prices, others clarify that rainfall in Taiwan has been decreasing steadily over the past few decades.

The government has been working hard to address the drought efficiently. Taiwan depends heavily on microchip manufacturers, including TSMC, as a country. The TSMC accounts for “more than [90%] of the world’s manufacturing capacity for the most advanced chips.” Because of this, the Taiwanese government has authorized the companies to continue working within normal capacity. However, the companies recycle water at high percentages. Recycling does not fully make up the 63 million gallons of water TSMC consumed in 2019 across all of its manufacturing facilities. 

Restoring the Water

The allowances for manufacturing companies come at a cost. The recent drought in Taiwan has decimated its farming industry. It is not unusual for the government to shut off irrigation on a large scale in order to save water. However, it has only been six years since the last shut-off and farmers are struggling as a result.

The government is not only helping manufacturers including TSMC. It is also helping farmers by:

  • Offering farmers subsidies in exchange for not irrigating their fields
  • Looking into imposing extra fees on Taiwan’s 1,800 water-intensive factories
  • Drilling extra wells to create more water sources
  • Researching to fix leaky pipes, which can result in the loss of up to 14% of water in transport
  • Dumping cloud-seeding chemicals in hopes of triggering downpours

Only time will tell how long this crushing drought in Taiwan will last. Through the Taiwan government’s work, it may be able to overcome its shockingly low poverty rate of 1%, or at the very least, prevent poverty from rising. 

Thomas McCall
Photo: Flickr

Drought In TaiwanThe country of Taiwan, the world’s largest producer of computer chips, also known as semiconductors, is experiencing a massive drought. Decreased water supply has led to the government’s rationing of water, resulting in greater water prioritization for chip-producing companies than for struggling farmers in the region. The effects of the drought in Taiwan have gained the attention of many Instagram influencers who have posted information about it in order to spread awareness.

Drought in Taiwan

The most recent drought in Taiwan is the result of a dry spell that has lasted 18 months. Under normal circumstances, Taiwan is considered subtropical as the area usually receives plenty of rain throughout the year and typhoons are typical for the region. In the summer of 2020, however, Taiwan did not experience any typhoons and rainfall rates decreased significantly.

In the Baoshan Second Reservoir found in Hsinchu County, water levels dropped by 96.2% from March 12, 2019, to March 12, 2021. The state of the reservoir and other central water storage facilities in Taiwan prove just how serious the drought has become. A study conducted by the Research Center for Environmental Changes predicts a 50% chance of a 20% water inadequacy in the future, specifically in the Banxin and Taoyuan regions.

Drought and the Semiconductor Industry

As Taiwan is the world’s largest producer of semiconductor chips, companies rely heavily on the water supply to continue running since the chips require copious amounts of water to be cleaned and manufactured. Due to water shortages, the Taiwanese Government decided to stop irrigating thousands of hectares of crops and instead grant more water to the semiconductor chip industry. The government is compensating farmers, but farmers still risk losing clientele and damaging their brand reputation. Furthermore, young farmers who were encouraged to go into agriculture feel as though they have wasted investments in land and equipment.

The worldwide demand for the chips has caused companies in the United States, the U.K. and Australia to raise prices on cars containing microchips as the need for these devices is greater than ever. As the demand for chips continues to grow, Taiwan’s farmers must face the socioeconomic impacts of losing countless crops.

Solutions

The importance of the computer chip industry to Taiwan’s economy is immense. Therefore, the government is putting a lot of effort into trying to quickly resolve the water crisis. The government has prioritized constructing wells for water and using military planes to spread cloud-seeding chemicals that have the potential to produce rain.

The government had promptly tackled prior issues with water, including leaky pipes, which caused 14% of water loss in the past. The leakage rate is now down 20% from the previous decade. The government has also started creating more water desalination plants, which process significant amounts of water. The plants may not be enough to keep up with the needs of semiconductor manufacturers, however. Chip manufacturers are also attempting to save themselves.  A large semiconductor producer known as TSMC is recycling 86% of the water it uses in order to conserve water.

There is no doubt that water allocation during droughts in Taiwan must be improved, but with government authorities, struggling farmers and social media influencers coming together to discuss the issue, there is hope that a long-term solution may be on the horizon.

Susan Morales
Photo: Flickr

the drought in AfghanistanSince the 20th century, Afghanistan, an arid country in the Middle East, has experienced repeated droughts. The below-average rainfalls in 2021 may be an indication of another impending drought. The droughts have impacted food security in Afghanistan, leaving many Afghans struggling to acquire food. However, the Afghan government and aid groups are stepping in with assistance in preparation for an upcoming drought in Afghanistan.

Drought in Afghanistan

A majority of the precipitation used to water fields and crops in Afghanistan comes from snow, ice and glaciers up in the mountains. This water is funneled down through either canals or underground irrigation systems set in place. The Hindu Kush mountains provide roughly 80% of Afghanistan’s water supply. The last two decades have seen two droughts a decade. However, all previous decades typically saw only one drought in a cycle of three to five years. The most recent drought in Afghanistan in 2018 caused around 250,000 people to migrate elsewhere.

Furthermore, the drought left farmers unable to reap crops from dry land and herders began selling off livestock for bare minimum prices. The massive displacement of people stems from a lack of assistance from the government and aid groups. The 2018 drought impacted 22 out of 34 Afghanistan provinces and led to 13.5 million people facing heightened levels of food insecurity. The Afghan government and aid groups were slow to respond to the last drought but now assert that they are better prepared for the impending drought.

The Current Situation

According to Reliefweb, close to 11 million people in Afghanistan are currently experiencing soaring levels of acute food insecurity due to COVID-19, conflict throughout the country, escalating food costs and high levels of unemployment. Due to the drought, wheat production is suffering and causing the economy to become even more unstable. Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic already heightened issues within the economy and farmers and herdsmen are driven into a cyclical pattern of loans and debt if the drought in Afghanistan causes crops to fail, leading to significant instability.

Humanitarian Aid in Response to Droughts

The country saw little to no aid in the 2018 drought, but some of the aid received did prove valuable. In Afghanistan’s Badghis Province, aid came in the form of basic water pumps and solar-powered irrigation systems to prevent families from being forced to abandon their homes. The New Humanitarian visited this village in 2018 and reported that the land was green and no families had left. In essence, “a safe source of drinking water was enough to keep people home.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization put together a drought risk management strategy that was released in 2020 and manages the risk of drought in Afghanistan until 2030. The plan is extensive and could help millions of people, but it is quite costly. Furthermore, it may require more than the estimated 10 years to complete. In the meantime, the help of humanitarian groups garnered a $390 million drought contingency plan. This plan includes food and monetary aid as well as initiatives to “support livestock and rehabilitate water wells.”

Droughts in Afghanistan have been a devastating issue since the mid-1900s and continue to this day. With the severity of the 2018 drought, the government of Afghanistan and other humanitarian aids are working to be better prepared for impending droughts. Slowly, the country will be able to pull itself out of increasingly severe food insecurity levels, improving the lives of people in Afghanistan.

Allie Degner
Photo: Flickr

Natural Disaster Aid in Paraguay
The landlocked Republic of Paraguay is prone to a wide range of natural disasters. Floods and droughts affect the most benighted areas of the country. Fortunately, both national and international agencies are taking action in aiding the local population, working through COVID-19 preventive measures that have delayed the arrival of natural disaster relief packages.

Natural Disasters in Paraguay

Paraguay experienced its worst floods in 2015 and 2019. Since then, the country has confronted subsequent natural disasters in the regions of Boquerón, Presidente Hayes and Alto Paraguay, with more than 2,400 families and 80,000 individuals affected. Even though Paraguay is one of the most humid countries in the region with a fairly high precipitation rate, climate oscillations have been destabilizing already vulnerable communities. As a country relying primarily on crops and cattle raising, fluctuations in climate and natural disasters can prove fatal for the rural population, not only putting the local economy at risk but also increasing the chances of infections through water-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya.

As the South American country that has experienced the steepest exponential economic growth in the last thirty years, Paraguay has taken long strides to increase income per capita and reduce inequality. However, most of its economy is commodity-based, which makes it extremely sensitive to fluctuations in climate. Floods tend to be an especially dire calamity since they directly affect the agriculture, animal husbandry and hydroelectric energy industries.

Increasing Climate Resiliency

According to the World Bank, Paraguay ranks 95 out of 181 countries in the 2019 Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative. This renders the country fairly vulnerable to climate catastrophe, primarily because of a lack of response and strategic planning. Climate indexes such as this one serve to acquire relevant diagnoses and eventually form sector-specific policies that can aid development outcomes.

It is necessary for the national government to take action to increase climate resiliency by adopting adaptation implementation efforts. Policymaking is crucial in this area, prioritizing investments for more efficient climate mitigation techniques in vulnerable rural areas.

A Four-Part Plan

The Paraguayan government has been taking action against these threats. The Ministry for National Emergencies (SEN) alongside the country’s National System of the Environment (SISAM) have devised a comprehensive plan to diminish natural disaster impact in Paraguay. The plan has been included in Paraguay’s Sustainable Development Goals for disaster risk reduction and consists of four parts:

  1. Understanding the extent of damage that natural disasters may cause. This includes encouraging research for preventive purposes and using ancestral indigenous techniques in farming to reduce the environmental impact that slash-and-burn techniques have on climate catastrophe.
  2. Increase governance in areas prone to natural disasters. The government is committed to creating laws related to aid in cases of floods and droughts, and beginning to build sound infrastructure to easily aid affected areas.
  3. Invest resources in building said infrastructures, such as roads and municipal buildings that can withstand harsh environmental conditions. This goal also expects to increase cooperation between national and regional authorities for quick aid relief.
  4. Ameliorate time of response by authorities and communities. This means not only investing in disaster-proof establishments but also empowering individuals and promoting universal access to reconstruction and rehabilitation.

International Assistance

In addition to the government, international aid organizations are also providing natural disaster relief to Paraguay. For example, USAID has been active in Paraguay since 2004, providing aid in the aftermath of 10 disasters. The World Bank has also been focused on helping Paraguay improve disaster preparedness. The organization has identified research gaps within Paraguay’s climate disaster response, including climate variability and water resources. Additionally, the World Bank has led economic-environmental feasibility studies, which are currently lacking. These efforts are all designed to ensure Paraguay has the resources necessary to overcome natural disasters.

Alongside conscientious data-gathering for the prevention of natural disasters and natural disaster relief, international assistance is crucial: it has not only proven helpful during calamitous environmental instances but also during a yellow fever outbreak, the subsequent seasonal dengue epidemic and COVID-19. Moving forward, USAID, the World Bank and other international organizations must continue to prioritize addressing natural disasters in Paraguay.

Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in SomaliaWhat do people tend to think about when they first hear the word “Somalia?” A Google search of Somalia would bring up pirates. Somalia is a small country off the coast of Africa and one of the poorest countries in the world with more than 50% of its population living in poverty. Poor living conditions and homelessness in Somalia afflict many of its citizens.

Somalia as of 2018

Government policy in Somalia is leaving the citizens out on the street. At the end of 2017, Somali government officials damaged around 3,000 homes in the city of Mogadishu. They used bulldozers to tear down houses and evicted people from their homes. In 2018, the government displaced more than 2 million people living in Somalia. Moreover, the number of homeless citizens in the nation reached millions.

Droughts have left the second-largest city in Somalia with hundreds of homeless children. Interviews with the children of Hargeisa revealed terrible conditions in which children left their homes due to neglect and loss of means. Moving from rural to urban cities has resulted in these children living on the street, addicted to smelling glue to ease the pain required to fight for their lives. The drought along with a lack of food, water and shelter has resulted in child death, every day in Somalia.

Homelessness in Somalia

Somalia is in grave need of humanitarian aid. Whether due to droughts, violence or politics — millions of Somali citizens have been displaced from their homes. Homelessness in Somalia has progressively become a more urgent issue. In October of 2019, flooding washed away thousands of homes, separating families. Another factor affecting homelessness in Somalia is the migration of citizens from rural areas to cities. People moving into urban areas are settling in tents with little protection.

Poor sanitation is also a significant issue in Somalia. The lack of proper housing combined with a lack of water and food can increase the risk of disease. The number of people affected by malnourishment in 2019 was in millions. Furthermore, this tragedy has a major effect on children. Malnourishment is one of the leading causes of death for 14% of children less than age five. The lack of humanitarian aid in Somalia is also causing citizens to flee from home and move toward urban housing. Those who choose to move, settle in “makeshift shelters” which increase their exposure to terrorism and abuse.

Hope for Somalia

Overall, homelessness in Somalia is the result of multiple factors. Violence and terrorism cause a majority of people to flee from their homes. Yet, forced evictions pose a major threat to families in the agricultural sector as well. Changing weather patterns and year-long droughts result in death, famine and the loss of homes. Political instability and regime changes are also an underlying cause of homelessness in Somalia.

On a more positive note, there is hope for the future of Somalia. In February of 2020, the World Bank announced it would normalize its relations with Somalia. This new relationship will go a long way in helping to grow the country politically, socially and economically. The World Bank is providing Somalia with grants of over $250 million to help reduce poverty. The grants will provide natural disaster recovery for citizens impacted by the droughts. In the same vein, these grants aim to increase security for families by improving education, the health system and providing basic, household utilities such as water.

Hena Pejdah
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Improved water resources in La Guajira
La Guajira is a department in Colombia, characterized by its limited water supply, underdeveloped infrastructure and desert-like features. In this same vein, the area also experiences frequent and severe droughts. Moreover, many of the rivers and tributaries located in La Guajira run dry due to these unfortunate droughts. Complicating the issue of water insecurity in the department — La Guajira is also home to about 400,000 indigenous people called the Wayuu. As a result, the Wayuu and other people living in La Guajira have to traverse great distances to reach a reliable water supply. Those who do not do this must resort to using wells that sometimes yield contaminated water. Understanding the dire conditions of the people living in this region, the government of Colombia put forth efforts to help create improved water resources in La Guajira.

Government Solutions: An Overarching Strategy

The solution that resulted in improved water resources in La Guajira was the La Guajira Water and Sanitation Infrastructure and Service Management Project. The goal of the project was to create a large scale and overarching strategy to further develop the water supply and sanitation services in La Guajira. The project started in 2007 and came to a close in 2018. The project achieved its goal of bringing about improved water resources in La Guajira by recruiting the private sector to help public municipal companies in their delivery of water resources. Also, the project reached rural areas by building reservoirs where water could flow to the people who need it.

The La Guajira Water and Sanitation Infrastructure and Service Management Project was a success. There were around 422,269 people in La Guajira who benefited from the project by receiving the water supply and sanitation that they so desperately needed. Of that number, 51% were women. There was an increase from 70% to 90% of water services coverage for 409,160 people living in urban areas. Furthermore, sanitation also increased for 362,131 people in urban areas — representing an increase from 53% to 80% in municipalities that participated with the project. By the time the project ended, it had established a clean water supply for about 90% of households within municipalities that worked with the project.

Impact on the Wayuu People

The Wayuu indigenous people and those living in rural areas benefited greatly from the efforts of the project as well. Ten reservoirs that were created to bring water to people living in out-of-reach, rural areas. Moreover, additional infrastructure was also created, such as fences, drinking points for livestock and safety measures for dams. The project also far exceeded its goal of achieving improved water resources for 3,500 Wayuu people. Instead, the project was able to give 8,881 Wayuu people improved water resources.

While work could still be done to create further improvements in water resources in La Guajira — the Colombian government was overall successful in providing the much-needed water resources for people living in the region. Often it is those living in rural locations, especially in countries with desert-like climates, that suffer greatly from water-insecurity. The Colombian government’s efforts to improve the lives of its rural citizens is both commendable and may act as a model for future nations.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Needpix

Morocco is a water-scarce country. It is greatly impacted by the effects of rapid desertification, poor water management and high susceptibility to droughts. Water resources in the country have fallen by about 71% since 1980. In rural communities it is common for families to rely on one water source, meaning water scarcity can have profoundly negative impacts on Morrocan families and their livelihoods. Drought, in particular, occurs on average once every three years and can have devastating effects on the livelihoods of Moroccans. About 51.5% of the Moroccan population is negatively impacted by droughts. With drought on the rise, sustainable water management is integral to the development of the economy. As a result, an organization called Dar Si Hmad is stepping in to use CloudFishing to combat poverty and water scarcity in Morocco.

Water Scarcity and Poverty

The citizen’s organization ‘Social Watch’ identifies the poor management of scarce water resources as a serious aggravator of rural poverty in Morocco. Farmers and women in Morocco are particularly burdened by the effects of water scarcity. Forty percent of working Moroccans are employed in the agricultural sector and 70% of farmers struggle due to the impact of frequent droughts. Women in rural communities in Morocco spend on average 3.5 hours a day seeking and carrying water, restricting their time in pursuit of other activities.

CloudFishing to Solve the Water Crisis

Dar Si Hmad, a female-led non-governmental organization (NGO), is taking an innovative approach to solving the crisis of water scarcity and alleviating poverty in Morocco. The NGO’s vision is to “enable sustainable livelihoods and create opportunities for low-resource communities to learn and prosper.” It is pursuing this vision, in part, by using ‘CloudFishing’ to combat poverty in Morocco. CloudFishing is an approach to solve the water crisis by utilizing the abundant resource of fog. In Morocco, fog gathers from the ocean and is captured in the mountainous landscape for about 140 days out of the year. Dar Si Hmad uses fine mesh to ‘fish’ for droplets of water within the fog which, once it accumulates, drops into a basin and is then filtered through a process of solar-powered UV, sand and cartridge filters.

The water collected by Dar Si Hmad is piped to 140 households providing approximately 500 people in southwest Morocco with access to sustainable clean water. Dar Si Hmad has developed into the largest functioning fog collection project in the world and is directly contributing to poverty alleviation in the country. The project is partly funded by USAID in Rabat, Morocco. Sustained foreign aid from the U.S. is integral to the organization’s continued success. CloudFishing has a positive impact on women in the community who now have more time to devote to pursuing economic activities to help them rise out of poverty. Sustainable access to water also allows poor farmers to have more stable livelihoods and escape the cycle of poverty in Morocco.

Looking Forward

While clean water is a human right recognized by a number of international organizations and countries, in water-scarce Morocco it has become a luxury. Dar Si Hmad is continuing its work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and is preparing to build two new CloudFishers to provide water to 12 additional rural villages in Morocco. Dar Si Hmad plays an integral role in providing solutions like CloudFishing to combat poverty and water scarcity in Morocco.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr