Climate change, population growth, increasing water demand, overexploitation of natural resources and environmental degradation have significantly degraded the world’s freshwater resources. In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the number of countries where water demand outstrips available resources is increasing. Many African countries experience either water stress (less than 1,700 m3 per capita per annum) or water scarcity (less than 1,000 m3 per capita per annum) or both. Moreover, food insecurity remains endemic throughout much of Africa, with climatic factors such as rainfall variability a major cause. For example, in 2006, 25 African countries required food aid, largely due to recurring drought. Poverty and food insecurity are linked to low agricultural productivity aggravated by climate change and variability. As 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug stated, ‘Humankind in the 21st century will need to bring about a Blue Revolution to complement the Asian Green Revolution of the 20th century… New science and technology must lead the way.’
A key challenge for decision makers, policy makers, and development partners is to understand the strategies adopted by farmers and other stakeholders in their efforts to address climate change-induced water stress. Smallholder farmers are the most vulnerable to climate change, and they have no alternative but to adapt their livelihood systems to changing climatic conditions. Fortunately, several practical options for adaptation exist. All efforts should therefore be made to refine, augment and deploy them appropriately and urgently.