Terrorism and its impact on access to water in the Sahel. global issues

  • Opinion: by Armand Huanye (Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso)
  • Inter press service

On November 13, he delivered these remarks to political parties, civil society organizations and traditional and customary leaders in Ouagadougou to raise awareness of the rapidly degrading security situation in Burkina Faso. His focus on water was particularly noteworthy, as he described seeing people in the Southwest, Northwest, and Sahel regions, including Gorom-Gorom, Tinasane, and Marcoye, carrying containers to fetch water.

This made him question why there are no development projects in these poor areas. The people, he lamented, walk for kilometers to fetch water for the dead animals on the road.

There are no roads for trucks to even transport fodder to support the cattle, he noted, before referring to the Kongusi-Jibo road bridge built in the 1950s, which has fallen into such disrepair that it can no longer support the trucks that would otherwise take it. now rotting local produce into the market.

All this, he says, is because of the lack of investment in construction and maintenance of basic infrastructure.

His speech depicts a reality in the Sahel region, where terrorist attacks have been rampant since 2012, following the assassination of Muammar Gaddafi and the looting of Libyan arms depots. Since then, many villages have been abandoned in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, with thousands displaced without adequate government intervention to curb the violence.

Since clean drinking water is a basic need, lack of access to it causes many problems at every level of society. Traditionally, villages are located near waterways to ensure a smooth supply of water, and practice horticulture to produce staple food ingredients that can be consumed and sold for cash for the community.

With terrorist attacks on the rise, mainly in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, but reaching coastal countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Togo and Benin, many villages are abandoned or under the control of armed terrorist groups that impose their rules and dictates. on the local people.

Displaced populations are deprived of their traditional water sources, be they natural water streams, standoffs or boreholes, cutting off their water supply and thus their physical and economic livelihoods.

“They set the law for the management and use of water and other natural resources, demarcating the areas to be exploited,” a local elected official in the terrorist-dominated zone of Central-South Mali told me, adding that: Cultivable areas are shrinking and they are occupying forested areas suitable for agriculture, which contain local water resources.’

The heads of the villages captured by coercion are obliged to cooperate with these groups. They are therefore the preferred interlocutors of all those seeking “permission to operate” in these controlled areas.

The opinion of the village head is conditioned by the prior agreement of the group belonging to the village. Actual negotiations with these terrorist groups are conducted before any projects or partners are allowed to enter the area.

The reality in Sahelian countries in general is that successive governments since independence have concentrated their “governance” in urban areas. But when you move away from the urban areas, the population is left with an administration that is more oppressive and less concerned with providing sustainable responses to the development needs of these settlements.

Land registry (customs), law enforcement (police, gendarmerie) and environmental protection (water and forest) agents are quicker to find ways to engage in racketeering than to offer the poor the services they demand.

“We’ve lost a lot of funding that has been transferred to other settlements that are considered more affordable,” a local government official in one of the areas under control recently explained to me. “Given the fact that the groups themselves must have privileged access to drinking water, they facilitate the arrival of certain partners to install water supply systems,” he added.

GWP West Africa is implementing the European Union-funded project “water for growth and poverty reduction in the Mekru sub-catchment of Niger”, but it was unable to launch the project as planned in August 2020 due to a terrorist attack that tragically killed eight people. .

Water management and development is one of the many sectors affected by terrorist activities in the region, but water, unlike some other sectors, is a matter of survival.

There is therefore a critical need to strengthen and improve water and land management while ensuring that the necessary investments are made to sustainably respond to the water-related development needs of people living in urban and rural areas at all levels of Sahel countries.

IPS UN Bureau

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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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