OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso, March 14 (IPS) – The author is the regional executive secretary of the Global Water Partnership in West Africa (GWP-WA). Burkina Faso’s interim president, Captain Ibrahim Traoré, spoke late last year about the conflicts now plaguing his country and much of its region. He described the situation in Burkina Faso as predictable given the endemic weaknesses in governance which he says have led to the economic neglect of many young people, especially outside the urban areas.
He issued these remarks on November 13 to political parties, civil society organizations and traditional and traditional leaders in Ouagadougou to raise awareness of the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Burkina Faso. Of particular note was his focus on water, as he described seeing people in the Southwest, Northwest, and Sahel regions, including Gorom-Gorom, Tinasane, and Markoye, dragging jerry cans to fetch water.
This led him to wonder why there were no development projects in these impoverished regions. People walk, he complained, for miles to fetch water for the cattle that die along the way.
There are no roads for trucks to even carry fodder to sustain livestock, he mused, before referring to the Kongoussi-Djibo road bridge built in the 1950s that is so dilapidated that it can no longer carry the trucks that otherwise cross the road. would take. now local produce is rotting on the market.
Everything he says, due to a lack of investment in the construction and maintenance of essential infrastructure.
His speech portrays a reality in the Sahel region where terrorist attacks have been rampant since 2012, following the assassination of Mouammar Gaddafi and the subsequent looting of Libyan weapons caches. Since then, many villages have been abandoned in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, and thousands of people have been displaced without government control of the violence.
Since clean drinking water is a basic need, lack of access to it leads to many problems at every level of society. Traditionally, villages are close to waterways to allow a smooth water supply, as well as gardening to produce basic ingredients for food that can be consumed and sold for cash for the community.
With the rise of terrorist attacks, mainly in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, but reaching coastal countries such as Ivory Coast, Togo and Benin, many villages are abandoned or under the control of armed terrorist groups that impose their own rules and dictates on the locals.
Displaced populations are being deprived of their traditional water sources, whether natural watercourses, standpipes or boreholes, cutting off their water supply and thus access to their means of physical and economic livelihood.
“They lay down the law for the management and use of water and other natural resources by demarcating areas that may be exploited,” a local elected authority told me in a terrorist-dominated zone in the central-southern part of Mali, adding: “the arable areas are reduced and they occupy the forested areas suitable for agriculture and which contain the local water resources.
The heads of forcibly occupied villages are obliged to cooperate with these groups. They are therefore the interlocutors of choice for all those who “seek permission to operate” in these controlled areas.
The village chief’s advice is subject to the prior agreement of the group to which the village belongs. There are real negotiations with these terrorist groups before projects or partners are allowed to enter the territory.
The reality in the Sahel countries in general is that successive governments since independence have concentrated their “government” on urban areas. But once you leave the urban areas, the populations are left to fend for themselves with an administration that is more oppressive and not the least bit concerned with providing sustainable answers to the development needs of these places.
The agents of the registry office (customs), law enforcement (police, gendarmes), and conservation (water and forests) are more likely to find ways to participate in extortion than to provide the poor with the services they need.
“We lost a lot of funds that were transferred to other places that are considered more accessible,” a local government official recently told me in one of the monitored areas. “Given that the groups must have privileged access to drinking water themselves, they facilitate the arrival of certain partners to install water supply systems,” he added.
GWP West Africa is executing the European Union funded project “water for growth and poverty alleviation in the Mekrou sub-basin in Niger”, but was unable to start the project as planned in August 2020 due to a terrorist attack that tragically left eight people dead. life came.
Water management and development is just one of many sectors affected by terrorist activity in the region, but water, unlike some other sectors, is a matter of survival.
There is therefore a critical need to strengthen and improve the management of water resources and land while ensuring that the necessary investments are made to respond sustainably to the water-related development needs of people living in urban and rural areas at all levels in the Sahel countries.
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