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Unlocking Africa’s Groundwater Potential: ten minute documentary film

IWRA 2020 Online Conference - Addressing Groundwater Resilience under Climate Change
THEME 4. Groundwater Governance, Management and Policy
Author(s): Kerstin Danert

Dr. Kerstin Danert
UPGro Programme PCG Chair & Director, Ask for Water GmbH
Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Malawi, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe  Beyond Africa: Australia, Netherlands Spain and United Kingdom

Keyword(s): Sub-Saharan Africa, groundwater, climate change, video, stakeholders


Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is a region of extremes, with the lowest proportions of national populations with access to safe drinking water, the lowest rates of per capita food production, and the most variable river discharge in the world. Climate change is intensifying precipitation, particularly in the tropics, resulting in fewer but heavier rainfalls. As SSA warms more rapidly than the rest of the world, the frequency and intensity of floods as well as the frequency and duration of drought conditions are amplified. The poorest members of society are disproportionately affected by the warming world.

Groundwater, the world’s largest distributed store of freshwater, is vital to alleviating endemic poverty in SSA as it enables climate-resilient access to freshwater that is often the only perennial water supply in drylands or in the dry season. Despite the strategic importance of groundwater to SSA, it remains peripheral to water policy discussions and investments in water resources.

As an effort to communicate effectively and widely to decision makers with a limited understanding of groundwater, the UPGro (Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor) programme funded by the UK government (DFID-UKRI) has developed a 10-minute film, five short thematic films and ten social media clips on the importance of groundwater for Africa.

UPGro involved over 170 researchers working in 15 countries in Africa and beyond. The film communicates several research outcomes that directly address the resilience of groundwater to climate change including:
1. the intensification of rainfall in many environments is expected to favour groundwater recharge so that increased use of groundwater may prove a logical adaptive strategy where substantial increases in freshwater withdrawals are projected;
2. groundwater-fed irrigation improves agricultural production, reduces the risk of crop failure and helps to increase household incomes;
3. the importance of handpump water supplies in rural SSA during the dry season and to contamination;
4. absence of large-scale declines in groundwater storage across SSA
5. recognition of the role of intense rainfall events and surface waters in replenishing groundwater, especially, in drylands.
6. the benefits of collaboration between stakeholders at all levels through transition management and radio programmes.

The improved, jointly developed understanding of groundwater in SSA from UPGro can inform policies and strategies for sustainable, climate-resilient poverty alleviation and economic development opportunities while reducing environmental impact and conflicts over water.

These short films provide a basic understanding of groundwater and convey key messages in a manner that is accessible to all.


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