Water and poverty

All human livelihood activities depend upon water.  Fresh water acts as the ‘bloodstream’ through the biosphere where we live, and obtain our food, livelihood support and social economic systems.

In the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the issue of water is explicitly reflected in two key targets (in access to water supply and improved sanitation), and implicitly in targets on hunger reduction and environmental sustainability.

Overall, poverty – the lack of means and possibilities to live a healthy, secure and adequate life – is intrinsically linked to water resources management.  Three main and sometimes competing water domains emerge: the necessity of healthy and accessible water as an input to sustain and enhance livelihood security in agricultural and natural land-use systems, as an input to adequate health and sanitation conditions, and thirdly, as an input to direct societal economic activities such as industry, irrigation and hydropower.

This study for the AfDB aimed to elucidate the linkages between poverty and insufficient investment in water management and infrastructure, building on the comprehensive literature review and three country case studies, which focused on the challenges and opportunities facing water resource management in the African context.

The SEI team, led by Professor John Soussan, worked with the national consultants and experts to produce the document consisting of the background literature review, and the three country reports in 2008.