Drought in Thailand
Thailand is currently facing a drought so severe that experts say that it is the worst drought in the previous 40 years. The low-lying water level of the Chao Phraya River, which is the main source of water for Thailand’s capital city Bangkok, has exasperated the current drought in Thailand. The issue is becoming so troublesome that people in and around Bangkok are experiencing water shortages. In addition, the decline in the water level of the Chao Phraya River has resulted in seawater entering the public water source, and many reported tasting salty water dispensed from their water tabs. Water salination not only puts drinking water in jeopardy, but it also affects water-reliant industries such as agriculture and various manufacturing plants.

Key questions that people should consider are: What is the source of the current drought in Thailand? Who does this drought primarily affect? Is this drought a new problem, or a recurrent one?

Climate in Thailand

Thailand’s climate is tropical and typically supplies ample amounts of precipitation throughout the year. From mid-May to September, Thailand actually experiences a rainy monsoon season. On average, the Bangkok region experiences over 150 mm of rainfall during monsoon season. However, from November to mid-March, the country experiences a dry season, thus providing ample opportunity for drought.

The Unpredictability of the Weather in Thailand

Irregular weather patterns in Thailand began as early as 1986 when reports indicated that droughts occurred as a result of El Nino. Experts believe that continued abnormal weather patterns correlate with climate change throughout the last few decades. These irregularities in rainfall have caused great difficulties for the nation’s citizens. Between 1990 and 1993, the rainfall dipped below typical levels. However, between 1994 and 1995, intense rainfall caused one of the worst floods in Thailand’s history.

Agricultural Impact of Weather Patterns

The unpredictable precipitation in Thailand is a major problem, specifically for Thailand’s agricultural sector. Until recently, Thailand was the largest exporter of rice in Asia. Nicknamed the “rice bowl of Asia,” Thailand exported $5.6 billion worth of rice in 2018 or 22.7 percent of the world’s rice export. This sector experienced a great impact from the drought as Thailand’s agricultural sector utilizes 70 percent of Thailand’s total water supply. Another industry facing a huge impact is Thailand’s sugar industry, bringing the Thai sugar output to a nine-year low of 10.5 million tons.

These kinds of severe droughts might raise agricultural prices, making food less affordable to many. The scarcity of agricultural goods will inevitably hurt farmers if they cannot produce, especially those 40 percent living under the poverty line, potentially causing them to face perpetual poverty. The continuous decline in agricultural production might even negatively impact Thailand’s economy.

Thai Government’s Measures to Combat Drought

Drought in Thailand has previously initiated governmental measures. The Thai Constitution of October 1997 established a national push to both conserve the country’s natural resources and use them in a sustainable way.

As a result, the Thai government has promoted projects and campaigns which encouraged water conservation. Thailand has implemented dams and reservoirs to play a major part in relieving drought in the country. Thailand initiated the majority of the construction of its major dams and reservoirs, such as the Chao Phraya Division Dam, the Bhumibol and Sirikit Dams and the Greater Chao Phraya Irrigation, after the Second World War.

In 2019, for example, the Royal Irrigation Department of the Thai government designed two rice planting areas in the central plains to double as water catchment areas. Currently, the government is planning to build 421 water storage facilities to support farmers who are suffering from the current drought. Due to the intensity of the current drought in Thailand, the Thai Irrigation Department is raising slight concerns about the efficacy of these dams and reservoirs. 

Drought in Thailand has been a long occurring issue that affects numerous aspects of Thai society. Specifically, the negative impact on the agricultural sector not only affects the farmers but fluctuating food costs also affect Thai consumers. The irregular precipitation rate, that the climate change of the last decades caused, is further worsening the drought in Thailand, thus creating a cyclic decline of the economy and water sanitation and access.

The Thai government is taking active measures to deal with these issues where the aim is to provide continuous dedication to improving water conservation. The governments’ intention is that eventually, droughts in Thailand will become stories of the past.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

The Societal Consequences Of Climate Change
In this day and age, climate change has grown to be one of the largest issues around the world and it is important to understand its environmental impacts. First, the increase in average temperatures contributes to the phenomenon of global warming that affects millions of species and plants. In addition, extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, have become too common and far more destructive than before. Another primary consequence of climate change is the reduction of Arctic sea ice. Ice melts have contributed to sea levels rising, mainly in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. According to the EPA, sea levels have risen approximately 8 inches since 1870. The world should take action to stop climate change before it is too late. The consequences of climate change could worsen in the coming years.

Many mainly focus on the environmental effects of climate change. Now, it is time for the world to shift its focus towards the societal effects that climate change has on all ages. Specifically, individuals who live poor livelihoods are more prone to poverty due to the climatic disasters that occur around the world. Living in vulnerable regions with limited resources affects people the most as it is more difficult to recover. As the repercussions of climate change worsen, escaping poverty becomes more and more difficult. As a result, issues like food insecurity and the lack of access to water become more prevalent. Here are some societal consequences of climate change.

Food Insecurity

Climate change has become a benefactor for global poverty by contributing to the issue of food security. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the climate affects all four dimensions of food security including food availability, food accessibility, food utilization and food system stability. Typically, the consequences of climate change mostly affect those who are most vulnerable to food insecurity. By experiencing the immediate risk of increased crop failure, new patterns of pests and diseases and loss of livestock, these individuals are not able to depend on stable food supply. To add, almost 60 percent of the world’s population depends on the agriculture industry in respective areas. When climate phenomenons hinder agricultural productivity, food insecurity puts risks on the livelihood of many individuals.

With this being said, leaders, such as the United States of America, have taken action to help combat this issue in developing nations. For example, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee supplied over $2 billion in climate-sensitive development support to developing countries in 2017. This included approximately $300 million targeted towards the food security sector. Moreover, projects like these provide an opportunity for global powers to display leadership qualities and allow countries that need aid in the food security sector to receive it. With proper access to food and stability within this industry, undernourishment will be an improving problem.

Access to Water in Developing Countries

Climate change seems to have a major impact on water access in developing countries. According to The New York Times, The number of months with record-high rainfall increased in the central and Eastern United States by more than 25 percent between 1980 and 2013. With this statistic being even higher in the eastern hemisphere, it is evident that floods have become a serious issue that many are concerned about. Climate scientists state that the soil and farmland absorb the excess water. Consequently, this means that the Earth could become contaminated with fertilizers and other chemicals. This polluted water typically travels to larger bodies of water such as the ocean, ultimately limiting water access for humans.

In addition, droughts are a growing issue in areas with hotter climates, limiting access to clean water. The lack of access to water can lead to health issues such as diarrhea and cholera. It can also affect the business sector in many nations. The Lifewater organization touches on this subject and explains that water is an essential component processing raw goods for food and textiles. This process provides jobs for millions and helps produce products such as coffee and chocolate. By understanding the importance of water to the health and economy, organizations such as UNICEF have implemented programs to educate the public on how to find access to clean water when natural disasters like floods and droughts occur. In the future, this action will also help alleviate poverty in areas that are at risk.

It is important that the international community shifts its focus on the societal consequences of climate change. Individuals such as Greta Thunberg and Christina Figueres already addressed this throughout the current fight against climate change. Hopefully, this will push governments around the world to implement policies that are more climate-sensitive. People need to view the current crisis from a larger perspective as it affects millions of individuals and their lifestyles. According to an article by BBC News, the world only has approximately 18 months before the effects of environmental change become permanent. In that period of time, it must highlight both environmental and societal consequences, and implement climate-sensitive policies. Additionally, individuals should believe in these improvements as they can lead to other positive changes such as alleviating poverty in lower developed nations.

Srihita Adabala
Photo: Flickr

Droughts in Zimbabwe
Temperatures in southern Africa are notable for their fluctuation which commonly causes climate disasters. These disasters are particularly devastating to Zimbabwe’s rural population of approximately 16 million people and its substantial community of farmers. The country’s landscape has suffered significant damage from unprecedented weather, particularly droughts. Efforts to scale up governmental assistance have skyrocketed since January 2019, which has accounted for much of the rise in the price of basic commodities. Below is a brief history of droughts in Zimbabwe, the many implications that they cause and the solutions that different aid efforts have come to.

History of Drought

Zimbabwe has a long history of droughts, which have cumulatively caused an increase in poverty. On a regional scale, droughts often result in crop failure, loss of livestock and wildlife and power outages. A report from the World Food Programme indicates that as of 2019, an estimated 2.3 million people suffered from poverty as a result of the country’s worst hunger crisis thus far. Citizens turn to government officials to assist in food shortages, and while weather within the region is a determining factor in food production, it is mostly up to different organizations to provide varied forms of food security.

The country’s worst drought happened in 1992, which many consider the most destructive one Zimbabwe faced in the 20th century. Water shortages forced the shutdown of many industries and schools. Due to poor harvests that year, regions across southern Africa faced a short-term supply in their food reserves. Zimbabwe’s food shortages caused a ripple effect, with aggravated food production compromising foods like corn to countries like Mozambique, which relied on Zimbabwe’s exports. Due to low rainfall, communal area farmers did not have any suitable locations for food production.

Solutions and Aid

Shortly after the regional drought, the humanitarian agency Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) worked with Zimbabwe in order to build developmental programs that would increase accessibility to clean water and food. Programs that pilot cleaner VIP latrines, reinforce sexual and reproductive health and develop financial advocacy should increase household income, alleviate food insecurity and improve better access to markets.

In 2016, Zimbabwe declared a drought disaster as an estimated five million people faced food shortages. Shifts in weather patterns were a direct result of El Nino and La Nina, which refer to the periodic changes in sea temperatures in the Pacific Ocean.

The International Rescue Committee works to alleviate many of the economic struggles in Zimbabwe. Started in 2008 after a devastating cholera outbreak, the organization provides support to those afflicted by natural disasters. It will extend its strategy action plan to 2020, continuing to transfer direct cash transfers to low-income households, provide vouchers to farmers, assist in getting more food for livestock, deliver medical and emergency supplies, drill deeper wells and rehabilitate water plants.

The World Food Programme also plans to assist up to two million people in 2020. By March 2020, predictions determine that nearly 59 percent of rural households—5.5 million people—will be food insecure or in poverty. An estimated $173 million is necessary to allocate support to these regions. Many are saying that the hunger crisis will peak during the first three months of 2020, which is elevating the level of urgency for funding.

Recent Drought

Zimbabwe experienced another drought in December 2019, which ignited the worst hunger crisis the country has faced in nearly a decade. It has entered a “Phase 3” food crisis, which is just two steps below large-scale famine. Predictions estimate that this will extend into 2020, as poor macro-economy and germination rates continually affect crop production. In November 2019, farmers received only 55 percent of normal rainfall. Livestock losses have reached 2.2 million people in urban areas and 5.5 million in rural ones. An emergency operation is underway by the World Food Programme in order to assist the 7.7 million people who plunged into hunger. Partnerships with UNICEF and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are leading to more international efforts for resilience programs.

Implications of Drought

These droughts carry many logistical implications, leading to economic struggles as inflation rates go up, farmers undergo crop failure and food supplies grow scarce. Clean water, medical supplies and nourishing foods have become inaccessible and render much of the population food insecure and poverty-stricken.

Droughts in Zimbabwe hold many implications for the country’s current hunger crisis. Varying aid efforts are slowly pushing the region to a progressive standpoint. The limitations of food security, when it comes to natural hazards like droughts, illustrate a need to offer more aid to regions stricken by climate disasters. Efforts to mobilize aid in southern African are essential to curbing economic decline and creating sustainable communities.

– Brittany Adames
Photo: Flickr

The Impact of the Somalia Famine in 2011The Horn of Africa is the easternmost region of Africa. It is comprised of four countries: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. In 2011, the countries in the Horn of Africa were severely impacted by what was known as the “worst drought in 60 years.” Somalia was affected the worst due to a combination of extreme weather conditions and civil disorder. On July 20, 2011, the U.N. declared a famine in southern and central Somalia, specifically in Lower Shabelle, Mogadishu and the Bay area where acute malnutrition rates among children exceeded 30 percent. People were unable to access basic necessities. More than two people per 10,000 were dying daily. Inevitably, the famine led to high mortality rates. Nearly 260,000 people died by the end of the 2011 Somalia famine with more than half of the victims being children under five years old.

Cause and Effect of the 2011 Drought

Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, cited poor rainfall for two consecutive seasons was the cause of the severe 2011 East Africa drought. Crops in Somalia are typically planted when the first rain of the season occurs in either March or April. However, the rains were late and inadequate, which caused late planting and harvesting.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network had predicted the harvest in southern Somalia to be 50 percent below average. In addition to this, pastures were sparse due to the intensifying drought, which ultimately led to the rapid loss of livestock. Crop failure coupled with poor harvests and limited livestock reduced food availability. As a result, food prices increased substantially. This ultimately intensified the severe food crisis in Somalia.

Government vs. al-Shabaab

Due to limited resources, a conflict began to grow over food and water. Additionally, civil disorder worsened the famine conditions as the militant Islamic group, al-Shabaab, was at war with the government over control of the country. Food aid was delayed in south-central Somalia—two al-Shabaab controlled regions—because the terrorist group banned numerous humanitarian agencies from distributing food and assistance to starving citizens of the region.

Al-Shabaab threatened citizens with brutal punishment, including execution, if they dared try to escape the region. Despite these terroristic threats, 170,000 citizens of southern Somalia fled to Kenya and Ethiopia to escape the famine conditions that plagued the country. Unfortunately, this resulted in a substantial number of deaths due to severe malnutrition, overpopulated and unsanitary living conditions.

Foreign Aid to Somalia

The United Nations estimated that 3.2 million people in Somalia were in need of immediate help. At least 2.8 million of those citizens were inhabitants of south Somalia. Numerous United Nations agencies, including the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), united to provide relief to the victims of the 2011 Somalia famine. Although the conflict between rival groups initially left the south-central region of Somalia isolated from foreign aid, humanitarian agencies persisted in helping the citizens of Somalia.

The United Nations assisted in raising more than $1 billion for relief efforts across the region to reduce malnourishment and mortality rates. In addition to this, heavy rains in the fall season replenished the land, allowing a successful crop season and a bountiful harvest. In February 2012, the lethal conditions that once swept across the nation had improved. The United Nations declared the famine that plagued Somalia was finally over.

Where Does Somalia Stand Now?

In June 2019, the United Nations declared that countries of the Horn of Africa were at risk of another famine due to another drought. Five million people were at risk of this potential famine with Somalians accounting for a majority of the at-risk population. The Under-Secretary-General and emergency relief coordinator, Mark Lowcock, stated that he allocated $45 million from the U.N. emergency relief fund to help purchase food and other basic necessities. A majority of the $45 million was allocated for Somalia as 2.2 million people could face another severe food crisis similar to the 2011 Somalia famine.

The United Nations recognized that Somalia has suffered from several occurrences of food insecurity. The organization has taken the initiative to prevent another famine from occurring in Somalia by acting early, allocating funds and raising awareness about the issue.

Arielle Pugh
Photo: Flickr

water crisis in Chennai

Chennai, the capital of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, faces a water shortage that threatens the lives of 9 million residents. The city heavily relies on groundwater, which has completely dried up. Ironically, the city is prone to flooding caused by the heavy rains of the monsoon season. The local government failed to harness rainfall during the monsoon season, which was less than usual last year, causing water reserves to remain unfilled. With no further preparation of the inevitable, stored water continued being depleted and resulted in a water crisis in Chennai.

Only Rain Can Save Chennai

Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio posted on Instagram, saying that “only rain can save Chennai from this situation.” The picture was of women trying to draw water from an almost empty well. DiCaprio drew attention to the water crisis in Chennai in hopes of highlighting how devastating the conditions are, and to spread awareness about the importance of preparing for droughts.

The Cause of the Problem

The cause of the drought is the vast amount of urbanization in Chennai. Buildings were quickly built on top of underground water reserves, which eventually dried up due to a lack of rainwater being able to enter them. For example, “in the 1920s…the ancient 70 acre Mylapore tank was filled up to create what is now a bustling residential and commercial area called T Nagar.” This means that the citizens of Chennai have to rely on outside water being brought in.

Getting Water from the Government

One solution for the people of Chennai is to order water from government water trucks.  Each day these trucks bring water to a community or neighborhood for people to fill up their reserves. However, current water tankers have long and increasing wait time, causing further problems. Citizens turn to private tankers, but these sell water “for six times the price [of government tankers].” Until the water tanker process can be made more efficient, people are forced to deplete their savings to pay for water, or even move out of Chennai.

Other Possible Solutions

An alternative solution is to invest in the latest technology to make water more accessible for everyone, such as more desalination plants that make saltwater drinkable. One example is the Minjur desalination plant, which is “35km north of…Chennai,” and is the largest desalination plant in India. It has “a capacity of 100 [milliliters/day]” and could potentially help around 500,000 people in Chennai. The state government hopes to use the plant to help in future water crises.

Ironically, Chennai already has a solution, rainwater harvesting, which is mandatory for all buildings by law. This is the simple process of collected rainwater from buildings which can then be stored for later use. According to The Washington Post, the rainwater harvesting process “has not been rigorously implemented or monitored” leaving many people blaming the Chennai government for their inefficiency and lack of preparation for what is the slow and steady degradation of Chennai’s water supply.

While millions of Chennai citizens currently struggle to get drinking water, it is important to remember that there are solutions that can be implemented to stop a water crisis from reoccurring in the future. Solutions such as desalination plants, water trucks and rainwater harvesting are all steps in the right direction to ensure water access for the millions who need it.

– Anish Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

Water Shortage in ChennaiWater has become a scarce commodity for residents in Chennai, India. Reservoirs once teeming with water are now dry lake beds. Water levels in the area are the fifth-lowest recorded in the last 74 years, sparking worry about future water shortages. Drought-like conditions paired with the limited access to water are driving city officials and residents to find alternative sources of water.

Why Access to Water Matters

Water is an integral part of everyday life in Chennai. At least 85 percent of the area is directly dependent on rain to recharge its groundwater. Agriculture is a big part of Chennai’s ecosystem and economy. Rain provides water for irrigation and livestock. Healthy living is another result of easy access to clean water. Rain provides water for drinking, cooking, cleaning and other household needs.

Rainfall is collected, stored and treated in four main reservoirs: Chembarambakkam Lake, Redhills Lake, Poondi Lake and Cholavaram Lake. These bodies of water depend on seasonal rainfall to replenish water levels year after year. At capacity, Chembarmbakkam holds 3,645 million cubic feet (MCFT) of water, Redhills holds 3,330 MCFT, Poondi holds 3,231 MCFT and Cholavarm holds 1,081 MCFT.

Recent records show that combined, all four reservoirs are at 1.3 percent of total capacity. In May 2019, Chembarambakkam only held one MCFT of water, Redhills held 28 MCFT, Poondi held 118 MCFT and Cholavarm held four MCFT. The water shortage is impeding the city’s ability to produce food, creating severe food insecurity and exposing its residents to unsanitary living conditions.

Factors Driving Chennai’s Water Shortage

Various factors are contributing to the water shortage in Chennai. The most observable factor is the lack of rain. Typically, India’s monsoon rain season occurs between June and September. Similar to a hurricane or typhoon, monsoons bring torrential rains across India which replenish the region’s water supply. For the past couple of years, Chennai has experienced lower than normal rainfall. Even monsoon rain levels were recorded to be 44 percent lower than the average in June 2019.

Lower rainfall, combined with scorching temperatures, has created drought-like conditions in the area. To make matters worse, Chennai continues to grow water-guzzling crops like sugarcane, rice and wheat. With no improvements in sight, some Chennai residents have chosen to migrate out of the area to avoid the consequences of the impending water shortage.

Response to the Water Shortage in Chennai

City officials and residents are responding to Chennai’s water shortage and drought. Here are three ways Chennai is increasing and conserving its water levels:

  1. Water Delivery – Affluent Chennai residents and businesses are relying on the water supply of neighboring cities. They pay trucks to deliver clean water to their homes and places of business. City officials are also following suit. They arranged for 10 million liters of water to be transported by train from Jolarpet, a city 200 kilometers away. The water will be pumped upstream in area lakes. Through the natural gradient, the water will flow downstream and help increase water levels. This practice recharges depleting groundwater in the region. As a result, Chennai will offset the crippling effects caused by the lack of rain as its green cover increases and agriculture receives a boost.
  2. Rain Harvesting – Non-affluent Chennai residents are digging trenches and embankments in an effort to increase their own access to water. Rain harvesting is a common practice in India, but the high cost of water delivery and below-average rainfall has made the practice more important than ever. While individual trenches and embankments cannot hold large amounts of water, they do give residents a chance to increase water levels in the area. The cost of upkeeping the rain harvesting structures is equivalent to $1.40. As a result, Chennai residents are able to increase their field productivity and maintain healthy livestock at a low cost.
  3. Micro-Irrigation – Agriculture methods are also changing as part of Chennai’s water shortage. Farmers are finding new methods of irrigation in efforts to conserve water. Recently, 1,000 solar pumps were added to cultivated areas. The solar pumps will help farmers distribute water more efficiently. The solar pumps also offset the cost associated with growing water-guzzling crops like sugarcane.

The Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board continues to monitor India’s water situation.

– Paola Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

BARKA Foundation

Burkina Faso is a small, land-locked country located in western Africa. Due to recurring droughts and the lack of efficient infrastructure, access to clean water remains an issue in Burkina Faso, especially during the dry winter months when two of the country’s three rivers dry up. In addition to water scarcity, many areas still do not have the sanitation facilities necessary to ensure drinking water is clean and safe. An organization called the BARKA Foundation is working to change that.

Barka is an African word meaning gratitude, blessing and reciprocity. These three words embody the mission of the BARKA Foundation, an American non-profit that strives to bring clean water to all parts of Burkina Faso. In 2015, 93.3 percent of the rural population and 80.3 percent of the total population did not have improved sanitation facility access. Nearly half the country still lives without clean water. Dirty water can spread diarrheal diseases and other infections to the public. Below are descriptions of the BARKA Foundation’s current clean water projects, and the positive effects these projects have had on communities in Burkina Faso.

WASH

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Education (WASH) is a long-term initiative that not only supplies rural villages with clean water but also educates the villagers on important sanitation and water purification practices. The goal here is sustainability. By giving village members lifelong sanitation skills, BARKA can be confident that their positive impact will continue after they have left. WASH objectives include digging wells, building latrines and educating members of the community.

Part of what makes the BARKA Foundation special is its culturally sensitive and community-based approach to clean water. Before any project starts, BARKA makes sure it is in accordance with the Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). This principle ensures that all beneficiary communities agree to the non-profit’s presence and initiatives, have the right to negotiate the terms of the agreement and can withdraw consent at any time.

BARKA also makes a point of developing sustained personal relationships with each village, so the two groups can develop trust and collaborate effectively. The foundation establishes water and sanitation committees in each town, which are run by the villagers and must be made up of equal parts men and women. These principles are central to WASH’s desire to create a sustainable system of clean water and sanitation. So far, more than 25,000 rural villages have been improved by WASH. The organization has drilled 6 wells and built 14 bathrooms in 5 primary schools in rural areas.

Social Art

BARKA recognizes the cultural importance of song, dance and performance in Burkina Faso. Therefore, to engage village members, the BARKA Foundation uses theater to relay information to the public. These performances involve a portable stage along with light and sound equipment. The plays often contain themes such as female empowerment and sustainable agriculture. After a performance, the audience and the actors on stage have a lively debate where questions may be asked or points challenged. The goal is to create an immersive and interactive learning experience in which everyone can participate.

The adult literacy rate in Burkina Faso is only 34.6 percent. For this reason, engaging and participatory education is extremely important in rural areas. BARKA wants to get the necessary information out there in an effective way that does not exclude illiterate members of society. BARKA has involved 10,023 people in villages and public performances to date, benefiting more than 16,000 people. The average audience size per performance is 432 people.

Walk for Water

A great way for people in their home countries to get involved with the BARKA Foundation is to do a Walk for Water. When there are no wells close by, villagers must travel to a water source to fill up heavy jugs of water and lug them home. The chore typically falls on the shoulders of women and girls in the village, so they usually have to attend to small children while making the journey. Often, those going to get water are barefoot or equipped with poor footwear. This practice is physically tiring and time-consuming and takes time away from girls’ education.

Walks for Water are an imitation of this daily burden. Classrooms, schools and clubs raise money and awareness by carrying water jugs and walking for a set distance (usually 6 kilometers). The fundraiser engages the entire community and is a great way to get everyone involved in an important cause.

Ceramic Filters

Ceramic water filters are a cheap, environmentally sustainable and generally effective way to purify household water. The CDC found that people who used ceramic filters were 60 to 70 percent less likely to contract diarrheal diseases from their drinking water. While these filters are useful for removing most protozoa and bacterial pathogens, they are typically not as effective at removing viruses. For this reason, filters should not be considered a long-term solution but rather an important step.

The BARKA Foundation uses a “cross-subsidization” model to distribute filters to impoverished areas. Essentially, BARKA sells the filters to NGOs and the Burkinabe middle class that can afford them. They then use those profits to distribute ceramic filters to poor areas, often visiting rural villages with little to no sanitation facility access. These filters represent a simple and effective way to ensure every household has at least some method of water purification.

The Future of Clean Water in Burkina Faso

Although the federal government recognized the importance of clean water distribution with the Water Act in 2001, Burkina Faso’s local governments largely do not have the money or resources to maintain filtered water and sanitation practices. The BARKA Foundation seeks to fill these gaps, and its efforts have no doubt resulted in success on the ground.

While it can be difficult to quantify exactly how much improvement BARKA has brought about, they are headed in the right direction. In 2005, a year before BARKA was founded, the life expectancy in Burkina Faso was 53.3 years. Today, the country’s life expectancy is about 61 years. BARKA’s various projects will continue to fight poverty by bringing clean, safe and sustainable water to Burkina Faso.

Morgan Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Drought in Zimbabwe

There has been a severe, ongoing drought in Zimbabwe for the past few years. Zimbabwe is a particularly sensitive country to drought. Because it already has issues with food security, low amounts of rain and other water sources make the situation even more difficult. Due to the fact that most agriculture in Zimbabwe relies on rainwater, the crop harvests in the region have suffered severely as a result of the drought. According to the United Nations World Food Programme, nearly 5.3 million people in the country (about a third of the country’s full population) face food insecurity due to low rainwater killing crops. With about 63 percent of people in Zimbabwe living below the poverty line, they will feel the impact of this drought the most.

Drought conditions are worse than ever

Temperatures as of late have been several degrees higher than average. The years 2015-2018 were the hottest ever recorded around the globe. These hotter, drier conditions have effected Zimbabwe. The heat intensifies the drought’s impacts on crops and livestock, resulting in a decrease in available food. The main crop which Zimbabwe relies on is maize. Typically, Zimbabwe’s annual maize consumption is about 1.8 million tons. However, due to droughts, the harvest in 2019 may be closer to 1 million, which is nearly half of the usually available amount. Experts say this could be the worst drought Zimbabwe has faced in over 30 years, with the country seeing 15 to 45 percent less than average rainfall.

Zimbabwe Flash Appeal program and other solutions

To combat this issue, the UN has launched the Zimbabwe Flash Appeal program, working to provide 234 million USD in aid. The program offers much-needed resources like food, water, sanitation and overall protection to over 2.2 million people in the country. With food prices increasing as a result of new governmental policies, people will be needing this aid more than ever.

There are other potential solutions to this issue, as well. Dispersing silver iodide into clouds (effectively “seeding” them) causes the clouds to thicken. This makes it more likely for the rain to occur, as water droplets are super-cooled and made heavier. Silver iodide mimics the chemical structure of ice. This causes other water droplets that are already cold enough to freeze to attach themselves and fall as rain.

Zimbabwe is one of 56 countries in the world that uses cloud-seeding technology, budgeting about $400,000 for it in 2018. The science is new and uncertain, and whether it effectively alleviates drought conditions is still disputed. However, it could provide one option to help correct the drought in Zimbabwe.

Another avenue to explore is diversifying crops and livestock in the midst of changing environmental conditions. One adaptation undertaken in some regions is an increased reliance on poultry livestock, such as quail and other indigenous birds.

Despite challenges, local farmers are working together to overcome the challenges in the area due to the drought. Economic and environmental crises are severe, but with efforts by the UN and local people in the country, there is still hope amid the drought in Zimbabwe.

-Jade Follette
Photo: Pixabay

Water Crisis in IndiaIndia is home to approximately 16 percent of the world’s population. However, India only holds about 4 percent of the world’s freshwater, leaving 76 million Indians without access to safe drinking water. The water crisis in India worsens each year as precipitation becomes more unreliable and groundwater sources run dry. More than 500 people in Chennai, India’s sixth-largest city, were arrested during protests in front of the municipal government on June 19. Protesters blame the government for the water crisis as a result of “negligence and mismanagement.”

Background

Usually, June is the start of monsoon season in Chennai. Precipitation levels are only half of what they should be. June 20 was the first major rainfall of the year, 29 millimeters. This was more than the total documented rainfall since December. Furthermore, Chennai’s basic infrastructure system is unable to efficiently store water during rainstorms to save for periods of drought. The rivers fill quickly and often flood. Meanwhile, 91 percent of the water flows into the ocean where it is no longer drinkable. Chennai is the first major city to experience a water crisis in India this severe.

The four largest reservoirs around Chennai have run dry. They are not expected to fill until November. The government is currently shipping water directly into Chennai, where thousands of residents wait in line for their share. Once residents receive their water, they must carry over a dozen pots back home for their families. People have resorted to violence, fighting over water or hijacking water trucks, to survive.

How Did This Happen?

There are two sources of water in the world: surface water and groundwater. Around 700 million Indians rely on groundwater as their main source of drinking water. But groundwater is only supposed to be a buffer resource in case of drought. Additionally, monsoon season’s unpredictability over the last few years has prevented groundwater from replenishing. For instance, between 2002 and 2012, groundwater depletion rates in Chennai were 8 percent faster than recharge.

Protesters blame the government for the water crisis in India because of the lack of regulation to protect groundwater has left reservoirs dry. India uses more groundwater than any other country, using about 25 percent of all groundwater extracted in the world. Unlike surface water, the Indian government does not regulate groundwater. The Easement Act of 1882 gives landowners the right to collect water under their land despite it being a shared resource. In other words, the lack of regulation gave way to the tragedy of the commons. Individuals acted independently to advance their own interests without worrying about the consequences of over-exploitation and depletion for the community.

Future Effects

Chennai’s geological systems are susceptible to quick depletion because of its shallow crystalline aquifers with little storage room for water. Additionally, crystalline rock has low permeability, which drastically decreased recharge rates during rainfall. These conditions caused almost immediate depletion. However, water insecurity will continue to worsen across other parts of India with different geological structures as more groundwater is over-exploited.

If they continue to exploit groundwater at this rate, 40 percent of the population will not have access to drinking water by 2030. Furthermore, 21 cities will run out of groundwater by 2020. Lastly, by the year 2050, 6 percent of GDP will be lost.

Potential Solutions

Replenishing groundwater is essential to ending the water crisis in India. However, as monsoon season brings unreliable rainfall, communities must search for other ways to refill aquifers. One idea is to desalinate seawater. About 25 percent of India’s population, including residents of Chennai, live along the water. Currently, desalinated water makes up 40 percent of Chennai’s supply. However, this is not enough to end the water crisis. Desalination requires too high of costs and energy consumption for a fuel-poor country. The Desalination Journal conducted a study in 2014. The study found that solar energy can desalinate water. However, desalination cannot produce water at a sustainable monetary cost.

The government must find other solutions to the severe water crisis in India. Leaving the rights of groundwater to landowners will continue to lead to further depletion. It will take a large government commitment to reverse the effects of the water crisis in India and provide its residents with sufficient access to clean water.

– Haley Myers
Photo: Flickr

drought in AfricaThe Horn of Africa, a region where nearly 80 percent of the population relies on farming for survival, has been hit with a prolonged and harmful drought. Periods of dry weather are not uncommon in the area. However, such a significant timespan without any rainfall spells disaster for those who require healthy crops to make a living. The Horn of Africa drought is even more dangerous considering climate change and the United States’ reduced foreign aid budget.

The Drought

The Horn of Africa is well acquainted with droughts. The region has faced several in recent years. However, the current dry spell is severely affecting the ability of families to obtain food, making it one of the harshest droughts the region has seen.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reports that the ongoing Horn of Africa drought has triggered widespread food insecurity, especially among families raising livestock. Expecting the drought to cause increased hunger, the FAO issued a pre-famine alert for Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The governments of Kenya and Somalia have already declared a national disaster.

The FAO also reports that families are malnourished due to scarce food and a lack of proper nutrients. Since the onset of the drought in 2017, the number of people grappling with food insecurity has increased dramatically. For example, 2.7 million people in Kenya, 2.9 million people in Somalia and 5.6 million people in Ethiopia are suffering from food insecurit.

Climate Change: Another Hurdle

Climate change is a major factor influencing the impact of the African Horn drought. According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report 2018, the number of disasters related to climate change have doubled since 1990. These events include flooding, droughts and fires caused by extreme dry heat.

The people who live in the region have remarked on the disastrous consequences of climate change. Birhan, an Ethiopian mother of four, commented, “We have not seen an improvement in the climate situation… The drought is becoming recurrent. But if there is rain, it is excessive and destroys the crops.” Birhan and 1.5 million other people are able to receive emergency rations during the drought thanks to the USAID food program. However, the aid is not enough to quell the rising need for food, livestock and water.

Cutting Back Foreign Aid

In March, the White House proposed the 2020 fiscal budget. This budget aims to cut U.S. foreign food and financial assistance by 24 percent. This funding reduction will exacerbate the adverse impacts of the Horn of Africa drought. Without assistance from developed nations such as the U.S., access to food and clean water will become more difficult for those inhabiting the affected regions.

Matt Davis is the East Africa regional director for Catholic Relief Services, an organization overseeing a U.S.-funded food program in the area. Davis commented on the federal budget’s impact on struggling populations: “We’re very concerned by the deteriorating conditions in the region where we are seeing families–whose lives rely on the land–unable to cope,” he said. “We are concerned the administration’s budget could abandon millions of families around the world just when they need help the most.”

Relief Efforts

Climate hazards and reduced U.S. assistance have worsened the impact of the Horn of Africa drought. Several organizations are working to help families with food and financial aid to combat these issues. In 2017, the European Union decided to further aid the people of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia during the recurring drought by offering nearly €260 million in financial assistance.

The Horn of Africa drought is cyclical in nature. The countries most affected by the drought are seeking localized solutions to surviving climate-related issues. Kenya appears to be moving forward in this area, with the government investing in community water sources independent of rain-fueled agriculture.

Ethiopia has also made strides in building a defense against the drought by implementing The Productive Safety Net Programme. This program helps food-insecure communities build stockpiles of food to prepare for drought and ultimately become food self-sufficient.

Coordination between the affected countries and more developed nations is necessary to build resistance to drought and other disastrous climate-related issues. Global financial and food assistance programs, a U.S. budget that does not drastically reduce foreign aid and localized efforts to build resistance against drought are effective approaches. These strategies will help the Horn of Africa move closer to a truly thriving expanse of subsistence farming.

– Holli Flanagan
Photo: Flickr