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USING THE MOST APPROPRIATE BUT COST-SAVING APPROACH FOR AN AREA

Solving the water problem of Africa may need more than one approach. Africa, and for that matter sub-Saharan Africa, is a large geographical are with a diverse cultural and geographical backgrounds. This means that one approach may not be the answer to all the water problems of Africa.

Most Africans live in rural areas where water related problems are high. This may be due to long periods of droughts coupled with the absence of appropriate technologies in tapping from other available sources such as groundwater and streams. Majority of the people are also illiterates and hence lack the requisite knowledge in water treatment, storage and utilization. Poverty is also high among the rural communities hence limiting their ability to keep good surroundings and to acquire the needed equipment for water storage and treatment. Besides, Africa governments have not done enough in addressing the plight of the rural poor due to widespread corruption and embezzlement of state funds.

Underground water may be a major solution to most parts of rural Africa. Some few communities have benefited from hand-pump (manual) bore-holes whiles others can boast of mechanized ones mostly provided by NGOs across the continent. For this reason, areas with relatively high prevalence of underground water may need durable bore-holes in order to say goodbye to water problems of all kinds. The bore-holes may either be mechanized or manual depending on the cost and appropriateness in the area.

Pipe-borne water may also work well in most urban and per-urban areas where some social amenities may be available. Some of these areas already benefit from pipe-bore water and may only need extension and rehabilitation to serve the rising population in those areas. Also, pipe-borne water may be better for some rural communities where the bore-hole water may not be accessible due to limited or unavailable underground water or due to the chemical composition of the soil in a particular community. In such a situation, dams may be constructed to store enough water which may be treated and supplied to the people.

In areas where the people are already depending on available sources such as streams, dams or rivers, appropriate techniques and equipment may be provided to treat such water before supplying it to the people. It is pertinent to note that most rural communities in Africa rely on these open sources of water for their domestic and other uses. Absence of purification and treatment of water from such sources exposes them to water-related diseases such as cholera and diarrhea which are already common in the sub-region.

Also, rainwater may be a complementary source of water for most of rural Africa especially areas that experience heavy rainfalls in winter. This may not be news to most of rural Africa as majority of the people depend on it during the rainy season. However, most of the rain water is wasted hence the need for a more useful rain harvesting system to collect rain water for long-term use. Besides, measures may also be devised to minimize, if not eliminate completely, contamination of the water as it is likely.

Lastly, education and sensitization of the people may be paramount in providing a supporting role to the above listed approaches in order to make the policy work effectively. Water for Africa goes beyond the provision of potable water to the effective storage and utilization in order to prevent water related defects. For this reason, people must be educated to keep good surroundings, devise better and appropriate methods of water storage and also efficient utilization. Water may be supplied to the people cleaned but they may end up contaminating it before using it if these key issues are not well checked.

The above listed factors mean that Africa needs more than one approach in order to provide potable drinking water to the people especially the rural poor. A baseline study may thus be necessary to determine the most appropriate approach for a particular community in order to save cost and ensure that the communities benefit from long-term access to potable water.

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Idea No. 513