African Ministers’ Council on Water embraces groundwater as a key resource for health and socioeconomic development in Africa through a UK-funded Networking Project

Handwashing with groundwater extracted using a solar pump in Kenya (photo: J. Walcott / IWMI).

“Groundwater is critical to combat coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Africa. Most people, especially in rural areas, depend on it for everything, including the crucial handwashing and cleaning required,” says Paul Orengoh, Program Director, African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), the apex body on water in Africa under the African Union. Since its inception in 2002, AMCOW has emphasized the need for proper handwashing, even before the present Covid-19 pandemic. Taking this conclusion to the next level and in post-Covid-19 recovery times, we need to be even more cognizant of the role of groundwater and the need for its availability and accessibility in adequate amounts and quality to ensure water supply and sanitation for all.

Groundwater is a vital resource that can be used to combat climate change and pandemics, and it holds great promise for the future development of sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, there is a need to address a chain of factors to ensure continuous, safe and uninterrupted flow of groundwater and its benefits for health and economic development in Africa. An overarching factor is having the necessary knowledge, capacity and finances to ensure this chain.

In this regard, AMCOW, in collaboration with partners such as the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the British Geological Survey (BGS), along with a large number of national and regional African and international organizations, many of which are partners in the Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP), have committed to work together to enhance the groundwater chain. The main purpose of such collaboration is to secure not only a better containment of Covid-19, but to also secure long-term sustainability of the resource and the benefits it provides for people across Africa.

Led by IWMI, these partners are working together to enhance focus, policy, practice and capacity on groundwater across the continent, building on and strongly supporting the new AMCOW Pan-African Groundwater Program (APAGroP). This work has been made possible through a grant from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and its Global Challenges Research Fund’s Global Engagement Network to the Groundwater for Resilience in Africa Network (GRAN). APAGroP, also supported through the Swedish Government, focuses on groundwater policy and practice in Africa, through leveraging on science and partnerships, while promoting sustainable management and utilization of groundwater resources for improved health, livelihoods and socioeconomic development in the continent.

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Dr. Canisius Kanangire, Executive Secretary, African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW), spearheading the AMCOW Pan-African Groundwater Program (APAGroP) as rolled out in Kampala, Uganda, in February 2020 (photo: Karen G. Villholth).

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