Mountain gorilla, Virunga National Park, DRC, Africa

Keeping apes and humans happy together the Ugandan way

OMBOKI MONAYO I omboki2725@gmail.com

Uganda’s population of gorillas continues to thrive, thanks to a One Health program targeting the residents living around Bwindi National Park.

“Over the last 25 years, our gorilla population has doubled. Our park is the only one that has been able to achieve this milestone in Africa. The other parks with gorilla populations are recording falling numbers,” says Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka of the Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH).

The Ugandan veterinarian is also the founder of CTPH, an organization dedicated to the coexistence of endangered mountain gorillas, other wildlife, humans, and livestock in Africa.

According to the veterinarian, protecting the gorilla population was key for her organization when the COVID-19 pandemic was reported in Uganda.

She explained that the measures were necessitated by the similarity shared by humans and primates.

“The DNA of monkeys, apes and gorillas is quite similar to the human one. We share 98 percent of our genetic material with these primates, meaning that diseases can easily move across the species. This is why we had reports of gorillas catching COVID-19 in some other areas,” said Dr Kalema-Zikusoka.

She said there were cases of scabies among gorillas that would sometimes stray onto community land.

“After studying the incidences, we found that the apes were coming into contact with children’s clothing that was infected with the pathogens. Scabies is a disease associated with poor hygiene, and when children are not going to school, they can easily pass it to the apes by crossing their paths,” said the expert.

She made the remarks while making a presentation on One Health approaches to conservation at the Fifth MESHA African Conference of Science Journalists held last week.

 

The celebrated veterinarian has won several international awards, among them the Edinburgh Medal and the UN Planet Pesron of the Year Award, believes the scientific way is the proven option for dealing with societal concerns.

“Science is life. We should not only practice it, but also talks, write and post about it,” said Dr Kalema-Zikusoka

She added that the project to protect the gorillas had been in place long before the pandemic, adding that it took intensive engagement with the local community to accomplish its goals.

“We had to talk to the locals and educate them on the importance of conserving the gorilla population that was attracting tourists to the area. We also helped them draft income-sharing proposals with the park management,” said Dr Kalema-Zikusoka.

As a result of successful negotiation with park management, the locals are enjoying 20 percent of the park entry fees, among other benefits.

The veterinarian firmly believes that the One Health message is not too heavy or complicated for teens and children.

“We can spread the One Health message to the young people and children through talks in school, wildlife clubs and even the newspaper pullouts designed for children. It is never too early to start talking to them about the need to stay healthy while conserving the natural life around us,” she said.

Working with the park management, CTPH devised a system to protect the gorillas.

“We devised a social distancing protocol of seven metres between humans and the apes, in addition to enforcing a mask mandate and sanitization requirement,” she said.

drones

Drone technology to ramp up reforestation efforts

By Sharon Atieno |sharonphoebeatieno@gmail.com

One of the interventions outlined in Kenya’s Strategy for reaching 10 per cent tree cover is the use of technology in forest regeneration, protection and planting. It is for this reason that drone technology is among the options being flaunted as potentially capable of achieving this target. According to Dr Jane Njuguna, Senior Deputy Director Research and Development at the Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), one of the ways of accelerating restoration of 5.1 million hectares of deforested and degraded forests and other landscapes is through aerial seeding and drone technology.

She was speaking in Nairobi during a Kenya Flying Labs and WeRobotics demonstration of how drone technology can be used in tree planting. Dr Njuguna said unlike planting trees manually, which is labour intensive, time consuming and limited in the amount of area that can be covered, drone technology can cover a bigger area in a shorter period. Besides, she said, some forest landscapes are difficult to work on and access due to the rough terrain and surrounding vegetation. The drones at the demonstration are specialised one that are fully fitted with seed dispensers and can carry up to 7kg of seeds. In one flight, which is about 15 minutes, the drone can cover 0.8 hectares, according to Mohammed Akasha, a technician at Kenya Flying Labs.

“We are testing this technology to have it as an alternative that can be used to reach places that are hard to reach because the drone is cheaper to operate than an aeroplane,” said Cleopa Otieno, Chief Executive Officer, Kenya Flying Labs. He added that drones can fly lower without causing any risk because they are unmanned. Apart from these technologies, in 2021, KEFRI launched the use of a mobile application that helps in matching trees to sites instead of just growing trees for the sake of it. The site, which is webbased, can also help in identifying the best time for planting trees as well as tree diseases.

Despite Kenya’s global commitment to the Africa Forest Landscape Initiative (AFR100), 50 per cent reduction of greenhouse gases from the forest sector by 2030 as part of its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to climate change, and to achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030 as a commitment to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the forest cover remains low at about 7.2 per cent, as per 2015 estimates. An analysis of land-use change over the period 1990-2015 has established that Kenya lost 311,000 hectares of forestland mainly due to conversion to settlements, crop farming and infrastructure developments. With the President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive to increase the country tree cover to 10 per cent by 2022 lapsing this year, more needs to be done to meet this target.

One Health the gateway to human, animal and environment wellbeing, say experts

Applied research through the One Health approach will lead to health investments that will accelerate economic development and reduce social inequalities, experts have advised.

Speaking to science, health and environment journalists, Delia Randolph, professor of food safety systems at the Natural Resources Institute in the UK, said One Health allows for integrated thinking across three sectors – human health, animal health and environment health.

Randolph, also a contributing scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), said One Health is therefore a collaborative, multisectoral, trans-disciplinary approach that cuts across the local, regional, national and global levels.

Bernard Bett from the One Health Research, Education and Outreach Centre (OHRECA) said One Health and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are closely linked.

One Health, he said, contributes to SDGs 1, 2, 3, 12 and 17 (no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, responsible consumption and production, partnership). More so, the One Health approach contributes to SDGs 5, 6, 10, 15 (gender equality, water and sanitation, reduced inequality, life on land).

“Ending poverty and other deprivations goes hand in hand with improvements on health, education, reduced inequalities and economic growth,” said Mr Bett.

He said based on the One Health approach, genomic analysis of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has boosted the capacity of COVID surveillance in Kenya.

In this regard, he said, testing for SARS-CoV-2 using qPCR has been ongoing at ILRI since 2020. A total of 24,398 samples have been tested and results shared with the Ministry of Health (MoH).

The ILRI laboratory where genomic analysis is ongoing is part of a network of facilities in the country that is supporting COVID-19 genomic surveillance.

Genomic analysis is the identification, measurement or comparison of genomic features such as DNA sequence, structural variation and gene expression. Essentially, genomics is the study of genes that makes it possible to predict, diagnose and treat diseases more precisely.

Bett said the genomics laboratory “has received additional funding to the tune of $1 million from the Rockefeller Foundation to support genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in the Eastern Africa region.

He also delved into intersectoral collaborations for rabies control in Machakos, saying that Kenya has increased coverage of control measures.

This is a step in the right direction as rabies remains a serious public health issue. Canine rabies, he said, causes an estimated 55,000 deaths annually across Africa and Asia.

As such, with the most effective strategy towards minimising human exposure being controlling rabies in dogs, OHRECA and VSF Germany are in collaboration to develop sustainable and scalable vaccination strategies for rabies through the One Health approach. Bett said that through the collaboration, the target is to vaccinate 200,000 dogs per year.

“New knowledge on the impact of climate and land use change on zoonotic diseases occurrence is being used for contingency planning,” he said.

OHRECA is leading studies to identify drivers of Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever in Burkina Faso and Rift Valley in Kenya.

On institutionalising One Health in Kenya, Dr Athman Mwatondo, who is the co-head of Zoonotic Disease Unit at the Ministry of Health, said the Unit was formed between line ministries of human and animal health.

Established in 2012 through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the Unit’s structural office is in Kenyatta National Hospital grounds, at the MoH grounds.

The Zoonotic Unit, Mwatondo said, has a mission to “establish and maintain active collaboration at the animal, human, and ecosystem interface towards better prevention and control of zoonotic disease.”

The Unit’s priority areas of outbreak investigation and response include the Rift Valley fever, anthrax and rabies, with a view to particularly eliminating rabies.

Mwatondo spoke of the need to create sustainable county level One Health platforms that will facilitate the devolution of the One Health approach.

Progress thus far includes the epidemiological investigation of a Rift Valley fever outbreak in humans and livestock in Kenya in 2018. Outbreaks of the Rift Valley fever were recorded in Wajir and Siaya counties in 2018, Murang’a from 2019 to 2021 and Isiolo in 2020 and 2021.

There was also an investigation of recurrent anthrax outbreaks in humans, livestock and wildlife from 2014 to 2017.

Mwatondo said rabies elimination activities include improving access to post-exposure prophylaxis and rabies education and awareness. Thus far, he said, there has been coordinated mass dog vaccinations in two pilot counties.

Mwatondo said the challenges in implementing the One Health approach include difficulties in coordinating multiple partners and operationalisation difficulties such as high staff turnover.

He said there is a need for domestic funding of One Health activities for sustainability purposes and to understand and adapt because the One Health approach is not a one size fits all.

By Joyce Chimbi

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Forests key in fighting poverty – University Don

By Christine Ochogo, November 18, 2020- christawine@gmail.com

African governments have been urged to protect forests as they are key in poverty eradication.

According to Dr Gillian Kabwe, a senior lecturer at Copperbelt University, Kitwe, Zambia authorities must fight overexploitation of these natural resources in a bid to fight deforestation often fuelled by the vicious cycle of poverty.

“Deforestation plays two roles, on one hand it helps in eradication of poverty among dependent communities in food and income generation like charcoal burning, firewood among others but on the other hand  forests are being destroyed  to clear land for agriculture, ranching and development, unsustainable logging for timber. All these human activities among others in the long run contribute to nature decline,” added Dr Kabwe.

The university done was speaking during the Fourth African Conference of Science Journalists organized by Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA).

She added that a recently released global assessment report by International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), 2020 on Forests, Trees and the Eradication of Poverty: Potential and Limitations had found out that today forests contribute to about 25 per cent of household income for the poor.

Dr Kabwe told the conference that poverty is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity and globally with one out of every 10 people living in extreme poverty.

While presenting at the virtual conference that brought on board scientists, experts and journalists from across Africa continent, the don added that poverty eradication has found a place at the top of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Most people living in the rural areas are disadvantaged on issues of value addition on forest products even though key forest resources are known by local communities, acquiring license is almost impossible and therefore they cannot properly trade on product like timber, charcoal, these among other challenges,” she observed.

She regretted that women are often most impacted by poverty and forest loss therefore it would be important that they be integrated in programs of engagement on issues of community based forest management.

“In the rural setups women are endowed with knowledge about beneficial forest resources as they are the ones who provide for everyday family needs, they fetch firewood, fetch water, do cultivation and therefore they understand forest issues well enough,” stressed Dr Kabwe adding that it is important to create a platform for them to express themselves.

She asked journalists to be objective in reporting forestry and poverty issues by highlighting regularly issues regarding policies and regulations on the use of forest products, promote contribution of forests in poverty reduction and amplify existing information on the value of forest resources and their potential.

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Scientists hail MESHA for training on media skills

Scientists have hailed the Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA) for providing them with an opportunity to learn basics in journalism saying the training is a milestone in improving the interaction between experts and journalists.

This orientation on journalism was part of sessions for a three –day Kenya Science Journalists Congress organized by MESHA at Sai Rock Hotel in Mombasa, Kenya.

The facilitator, Christine Nguku from the Media Council of Kenya, shared basic journalism skills which included news values and writing techniques. The facilitator also provided a chance to other journalists to share their experiences in covering science, more importantly how they deal with scientists.

Among others journalists complained about scientists’ tendency to use technical terms saying this was confusing not only to reporters but the public as well. Others blamed the experts for being mean with information.  

On their part, scientists said they were skeptical of journalists because they seemed more focused on negative stories and twisted facts deliberately for their own reasons.

While the two – scientists and journalists seemed to disagree, later on in the session a good number of scientists confessed that the orientation was worthwhile adding that they now have a better understanding of journalism.

“This training has been very helpful. Some of us are usually skeptical of journalists. This interaction helps build trust.  Once there is trust, it is easy to share information because you know that you are dealing with the right person. We thank MESHA for this opportunity,” said Dr. Nina Wambiji an official from Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute.

“I got to learn a lot at the congress. Particularly the need to communicate the knowledge we generate in a simplified form that the audience can receive and probably act where necessary,” said Dr Dorah Chao Kilalo of the University of Nairobi.

Beyond sharing notes, the scientists had a practical session to write a news story of their choice ranging from an opinion piece, commentary, feature story and hard news story.

Paul Ngaruiya from the Pests Control Board found the practical exercise more appealing and eye-opening. He said: “We need to share information with the public and our understanding of journalism helps to know how we can deal with journalists”.

This year’s congress pulled on one table journalists from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Malawi. MESHA (www.meshascience.org) has since announced that next year’s indaba will take place in Kisumu from November 16 to 19, 2020. Last year’s annual science journalists meeting took place in Nairobi – meaning in three years’ time the congress will have taken place in all the three cities in Kenya.

Additional reporting by Aghan Daniel aghandan09@gmail.com

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Marine Park extols virtues of local community in conservation

Community involvement in conservation has been hailed for its impact in the expansive Mombasa marine park, a warden at the Kenya Wildlife Service has said. “They charge around Kshs 6500

(USD 65) for the boats that take people around something that instills a sense of ownership of the park and help us take care of it,” Julius Ngeti, the Tourism Warden at the park said.

The park also known as “Allure of Beauty” lies between the Mtwapa and Tudor Creeks and its blue waters are ideal for wind surfing, water skiing, snorkeling and diving.

“The coral reef here at the park also provide a home to a colourful variety of marine species including crabs, starfish, stone fish, cucumbers sea urchins, corals and turtles as well as sea grasses in addition to interesting migratory birds including crab plover,” he said.

While addressing participants at the Kenya Science Journalists Congress 2019 last week, Ngeti said that the Service has been working hand in hand with the local community to ensure that the park remained safeguarded and free of intruders.

Ngeti says KWS works closely with the local community to conserve the park by allowing locals to operate boats for ferrying tourists to generate income. This way, they become the guardians of the park because they accrue benefits from the resource.

Ngeti added that the park is well known for parties, picnics and weddings. Even as we seek to increase revenue collections from both local, regional and foreign tourists, we remain assured that our park’s marine life remains intact hence visitors get value for money.

Droves of people are expected to visit Mombasa town and its environs to spend the long holiday, with KWS now positioning the park as a must-visit destination.

He added that they expect that such visits to the park and to the nearby coral reef will boost the revenue collections.

“On such peak seasons, the Park collects around Kshs 1 million (USD10,000) in a month and we expect the same this season,” says Ngeti.

“Our rates are very affordable. Kenyan citizens only pay Kshs 130 (USD1.3) to visit the park while non-citizens pay Ksh 1,700 (USD17),” Ngeti noted.

He affirmed that the park is a no fishing zone and is under a 24-hour surveillance from KWS officers to deter poaching and improve security of visitors

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Opinion: Kenya needs renewable energy not coal

Fossil fuel combustion and especially the burning of coal produces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, leading to human induced climate change. Studies indicate that the global average surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st Century and is likely to surpass 3 degrees Celsius. Rise in global temperature is already causing challenges to various societies.

A further rise will spell doom to the already affected communities.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, global temperature rise is posing huge impacts on rainfall patterns affecting water and food security.

Societies that largely depend on natural resources are affected the most. Efforts to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius will mean urgent end to the fossil fuels era. Progressive governments are already ahead of the game in phasing out fossil fuels and phasing in renewable energy. Some have adopted targets and plans for their power systems to reach 100% renewable energy as early as 2020.

Kenya might have contributed the least to global climate change. However, despite its low emissions, Kenya is one of the countries’ most vulnerable to the climate crisis. It remains highly dependent on low-productivity agriculture for food, income, and employment. Temperature rise even if limited to 2 degree Celsius, increases the risk of droughts and flooding in Kenya.

Kenyans know the challenges of droughts and floods. In recent years Kenyans have battled the worst and devastating drought and flooding events. At a global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius, projections indicate that the amount of dry days in countries like Kenya would increase per year.

Therefore, the transition to clean renewable energy needs to happen much faster.

The Kenyan government’s proposal for a coal power plant in Lamu is strange because Kenya has more than enough current capacity and potential for renewable energy generation to not only meet current electricity demands, but also to meet and exceed the projected demands through 2030.

Because of its high carbon content, coal emits more carbon dioxide than any other fossil fuel when burned. It makes sense then that coal combustion is the number one contributor of human caused carbon dioxide increase in the atmosphere. Worse still, coal mining produces methane, a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. Coal is the most polluting energy source on the planet emitting more than 60 different hazardous air pollutants. The coal industry stands in the way for a safe and healthy future for all of us. It threatens our most basic needs from the air we breathe, the water we drink and from a safe environment we all seek shelter.

The Kenyan government must face the truth that we are no longer in the business of managing carbon pollution.

Emissions must be phased out. This means dropping its plans to invest in coal and focus on renewable energy. Politicians keep talking about the seriousness of the climate crisis, yet the same politicians continue allocating taxpayers money to corporations seeking to develop coal in Kenya. It is sad that our leadership is not consistent with what they say and do. As a result, we remain stuck in exploring the old, expensive, dirty and dangerous energy sources such as coal as the whole world moves to cleaner and renewable energy systems.

Investing in fossil fuel projects like coal mines locks countries into coal energy dependency for decades. The adoption of cleaner energy supply options such as solar, wind and geothermal means, Kenya will avoid a high carbon lock-in that other countries have experienced in their economic growth pathway.

In addition, this will enable Kenya to contribute to limiting temperature rises above 2 degree Celsius that threaten lives of its citizens and ensure that Kenya attains energy security for its prosperity and future.

Renewable energy options provide Kenya with an adequate energy mix to meet its current and future energy demands securely and less costly.

The country offers rich resources for sustainable electricity generation. It has a significant amount of annual sunlight hours with a high irradiation. Despite Kenya having high insolation rates, the percentage contribution of solar energy to the total energy mix is insignificant (less than 1%). The potential for wind energy is proven to be viable in various regions including Marsabit, Turkana, Ngong and the Coastal region that can support commercial electricity generation.

Kenya is endowed with enormous geothermal resources which are mainly located around volcanic centres within the rift valley. The unexploited geothermal power potential is estimated to be in the range of 4000–8000 MW.

The Ministry of Energy has conducted surface scientific studies in Suswa, Longonot, Eburru, Menengai, Arus and Bogoria, Lake Baringo area, Korosi and Chepchuk, and Paka.

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Cooking gas that comes from human wastes

The increase of informal settlements in Kenya is a stumbling block to achieving universal access to water and proper sanitation by 2030, experts say.

According to the Kenya Water for Health Organization (KWAHO), over 2.5 million Kenyans occupy slum areas. The number is likely to increase going by estimation that by 2030, sixty percent of Kenyans will dwell in urban areas.

According to Mr. Patrick Alubbe, the executive director for KWAHO, sanitation in slums remains an issue which must be addressed for the country to attain the universal access to clean water and sanitation as envisaged in goal number six of the sustainable development goals.

Mr. Alubbe said Kenya loses Ksh27 billion due to sanitation related problems and Ksh 8 billion due to open defecation annually, an amount which can be saved if issues of sanitations are properly handled.

He said poor sanitation at the slums and generally within urban areas are consequences of many factors among them uncontrolled garbage disposal and inadequate land to build better latrines.

Other factors include untreated sewerage system.

He added that out of the 12 percent of national sewerage coverage only 5 percent get treated. To achieve proper sanitation, experts says innovative technology needs to be employed especially in slum areas in the country like Kibera, Korogocho and Kariobangi all in Nairobi and even in other slums like Oruba and Pandpieri in Migori county among others.

Kibera slums in Nairobi was several years back known for flying toilets (people defecating in plastic bags and throwing them away anyhow in any direction and everywhere) because of lack of proper disposal of the faecal matter coupled with poor latrine cover.

The good news is, the whole situation has changed with the construction of nine biocentres within the slum areas.

The centres, built by community groups with the support of Umande Trust have not only made steps in addressing sanitation issues at the slum but have also economically empowered many low income earners.

Mr. George Onyango, a member of Muvit group operating one of the biocentres at Kibera says the construction of the latrines, fitted with bio digesters which enabled them to also produce gas beside offering washrooms to the slum dwellers has saved many from the frequent outbreaks of sanitation related diseases in the slum. He said they averagely receive between 500 to 1000 people per day using their washrooms at a relatively low fee, a number he said used to defecate in the open using the “flying toilets.”

According to Mr. Onyango, individuals who try to construct their own latrines in the slum have found it difficult to do so because of scarcity of land.

Provision of an improved latrine for the slum dwellers is hence a reprieve to many who were defecating in the open.

He added that the use of the excreta to produce biogas which is used for cooking by slum dwellers at a very small fee has also helped them in managing the waste from the latrines. The project has seen 90 similar latrines which are also used in production of biogas constructed across the county.

Top View: A couple stands on a high ground to have a better view of the Kibera slums
Top View: A couple stands on a high ground to have a better view of the Kibera slums

However, an expert has warned that achieving open defecation free status is not an assurance to proper sanitation. Hygiene and sanitation specialist at Unicef, Engineer Sarh Kemoh has said.

Stopping defecating in the bush and using latrines at home, he said brings the problem of poor sanitation closer to them unless improved latrines are constructed and better excreta disposal mechanisms are employed.

He said the number of toilets constructed does not translate to usage adding that complementary behavior and practices which include hand washing with soap and water, proper use of toilets, safely emptied, transported, treated and disposed waste.

His call for improved latrine comes as counties in Kenya struggle to achieve total open defecation free status by March 2019 deadline. Currently only three counties in Kenya – Busia, Siaya and Kitui have achieved the open defecation free status.

Migori county director of public health, Dr. Kennedy Ombogo says the urban total sanitation program has met many challenges including inadequate water in urban areas, lack of waste disposal sites, and poverty.

Dr Ombogo said landlords who are key in the urban total sanitation program especially in slum areas have not been accessible hence getting the right owner of rental houses has remained a big challenge in addressing sound sanitation.

Going forward the director public health said the department is in the process of developing better waste management mechanisms including producing biogas from the excreta and also coming up with punitive regulations on sanitation.

Slum dwellers on their side have blamed poor sanitation on lack of political good will saying that leaders have occasionally stopped the government from improving sanitation in some slum areas to protect their votes.

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The Nile: Let’s talk conservation and trade, not war drums

Hardly a week passes without one reading or listening to mass media stories about the pending Nile water wars between Egypt and Ethiopia. The worst disaster that can haunt the African continent is the unacceptable and shortsighted wars between Egypt and Ethiopia.

In this era of climate change, there is need for extra caution in selectively using vague and biased scientific, technical and policy perspectives to beat war drums that fuel the simmering conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia. These two countries are currently most powerful African nations with rich and unique history including entrenched military skills.

To begin with there is need to constantly remind the two nations and others in the Nile Basin that this mighty river should be used sustainably to foster peace, increased trade, conservation of the environment and overall regional socio-economic development driven by credible science, technology and innovation. War should not be an option. Other Nile Basin countries which must pay extra-attention to curbing the simmering conflict include Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo, Kenya, South Sudan, The Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

Even more, all the Nile Basin countries have major roles to play in protecting and conserving their national and transboundary water resources that form the intricate web constituting the River Nile whose ancient roots once extended to Lake Tanganyika but the northwards journey was later blocked when Virunga Volcanoes in Rwanda exploded.

At the centre of the conflict is Africa’s largest hydro-electric plant, The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, initiated along the Blue Nile near The Sudan border in 2011. Egypt claims the dam will reduce the amount of water reaching its population and that the country’s survival is at stake. Ethiopia vehemently denies this. The simmering conflict has led to what seems like selective and biased use of scientific data and facts.

In Egypt, the minister for water resources and irrigation, Mohamed Abdel Aty, once said that reducing Nile water by two percent would result in about 200,000 acres of land being lost. However, Ethiopia asserts that hydroelectric power stations do not consume water and all depends on how fast Ethiopia fills the huge dam.

A former prime minister of Ethiopia, the late Meles Zenawi always stressed that the dam would never interfere with water availability in Egypt.

Ethiopia explains that it may even take a decade and half to fill the dam meaning that the normal rate of Nile flow will be maintained. In Sudan there are experts who say the dam will help regulate over flooding of irrigation projects by helping create a much needed steady flow.

However, Egypt constantly needs endless practical reassurances that no Nile Basin nation is plotting to use Nile waters to cause death, destruction, starvation and unlimited economic sabotage.

It is notable that the current regime realizes that Egypt as one of the continent’s big brothers should take a more progressive approach emphasizing socio-economic progress and integration driven by home grown science technology and innovation.

This was clearly emphasized in February 2018 when Egypt hosted the Third Africa Science, Technology and Innovation Forum in Cairo. The Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research, Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, pledged Egypt’s willingness to build a continent driven by knowledge and innovation.

He told delegates that Egypt would continue to support young African researchers and increase scholarship opportunities for students from other African countries. During the Forum, Egyptian Government and the African Development Bank championed a new push for African nations to work together towards building a new Africa driven by innovation, technology and commercialization of research outputs.

 

Technical Aspects

When Egypt completed building Aswan High Dam in 1970 it reduced annual flooding that benefitted some farmers while the availability of the fertile alluvial soil that increased farm yields declined drastically. There were fears that the dam would cause widespread flooding especially in Sudan because it slowed the flow of the Nile.

Still some experts say that much of the Nile water is actually lost in Egypt due to intense evaporation in the hot arid desert environment. Thus some experts in Sudan and Ethiopia say that the dam could directly or indirectly help curb the loss. However, currently there is no effective technological package that can be developed quickly to manage such massive evaporation process that has been going on for thousands or millions of years in Egypt’s sunbaked environment.

However, may be out of fear or distrust, Egypt is raising its claim of “Nile water flow” to 90 percent from the original 66 percent as major precautionary or bargaining measure.

Although in this era of climate change excessive floods in the Nile Basin may briefly meet the demand, there is need to continuously focus more broadly on science and innovation for sustainable solutions.

This includes various practical aspects of environmental conservation and protection. It includes protection and rejuvenation of water towers or water catchment areas and indigenous forests, especially the vanishing Equatorial Forests of the Congo Basin.

Although overlooked, Nile Basin countries face major negative environment impacts linked to the massive destruction of Equatorial Rainforests by some Western and now Asian timber companies. Rainfall in western Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda,

Burundi and western Tanzania depend on winds picking moisture from the once dense Equatorial Rain Forests.

Nile Basin still has abundant water resources and adequate rainfall that seem deficient because of poor distribution and unbelievable unwillingness to conserve excess rainfall causing floods currently haunting most of East African nations.

African experts are needed to deal with various aspects of water conservation, food production, increasing pollution, climate change, forestry and environment conservation, and other related skills.

With conservative and anti-Third World regimes re-emerging in the West, Egypt with a relatively strong technological and business base, should be at the forefront of innovatively promoting trade and tourism along the Nile apart from giving prompt attention to pollution of the river.

It should take hint from Turkey which is aggressively pushing socio-economic aspects actively in Africa.