The growing funding gap to keep up with the rehabilitation, operation and maintenance of ageing water infrastructure is a global concern, particularly in the current age of austerity, says global engineering firm Aurecon.
The firm emphasises that new water systems need to be built to cope with increasing populations, shifting consumption patterns, improving technologies, an uncertain future and a changing climate.
To tackle the outlined challenges, he suggests that there must be a global mindset change. “We need to create new sustainable and resilient water realities, based on a comprehensive understanding of problems, imaginative approaches, cooperation, new paradigms, and new technologies.”
In a South African context, Aurecon’s studies indicate the critical importance of constructing integrated bulk water supply infrastructure to mitigate negative impacts associated with limited water supply. This is already seen in the Western Cape’s forced Level 4 water restrictions, which have meant households and businesses have had to take extreme and immediate action to comply with critical water-saving measures.
“Almost every day, there are constant reminders of the increasing scarcity of water and the importance of managing this essential natural resource in the face of increasing demands, degrading environmental conditions and climate change,” says Aurecon water resources engineer Dr James Cullis.
The Value of Water
Cullis explains that clean, safe drinking water is an important prerequisite for life, the environment and healthy living. He adds that, while many countries globally spend up to 20% of their national budgets on healthcare, investment in quality water supply remains inadequate.
As a result, Jonker reveals that four out of five illnesses in developing countries have been linked to poor water and sanitation, and one death in five of children under the age of five worldwide is related to waterborne diseases. Even in developed countries, a lack of attention to the protection of critical water supply sources can have significant human health implications.
He further highlights that, by 2050, it is expected that foodproduction will demand 20% more water than it currently does, owing to the increase in global standards of living and the trend towards diets consisting of meat and dairy products.
“The amount of water required in the cultivation and production of food and other products is significant. It takes 600 ℓ of water to produce 500 g of wheat, 1 000 ℓ of water for 1 ℓ of milk, and 4 600 ℓ to produce one 300 g beef steak.”
Water as a Catalyst for Peace
Moreover, Cullis explains that one of the greatest challenges for the future is how to ensure sufficient and sustainablewater supply for a growing global population in excess of seven-billion. Sustainable water resources management requires collaborative partnerships among diverse stakeholders.
“Our growing world will demand more water and generate more pollution. This impacts and threatens ecosystems, water sustainability, peace and security. This, in turn, threatens the future and certainty of the world’s watersupply.”
Water supply risks are exacerbated by inadequate infrastructure spending, maintenance and poor managementand governance. However, Jonker postulate that this could be a necessary catalyst for improved cooperation between countries, especially in regions such as Africa, with 59 transboundary river basins.
Security measures implemented earlier this month on the Sena Railway in Mozambique have allowed Brazilian mining giant Vale to resume coal transport. The country’s state-owned transport utility Empresa Portos e Caminhos de Ferro de Moçambique (CFM) took responsibility for ensuring security on the line, after a string of attacks by Renamo forces.
Renamo assaults in northern and central Mozambique over the past two years have forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, and caused the shutdown of some transport links. Trucks travelling along the north-south highway have had to travel in convoys with military escorts this year, and even then there have been some attacks.
Yet the scale of the impact on Mozambique’s nascent coal industry was only recently when the government confirmed that coal trains did not run on the Sena line between the end of July and mid-November because of fears of Renamo violence. Attacks on trains in May and June had resulted in temporary stoppages but after another assault in Sofala Province in July left several railway employees injured, operations on the line were suspended for several months.
The nature of the new security measures has not been revealed, partly in order to avoid giving information to potential assailants, but it is likely that armed guards have been put on the trains and patrols stepped up along the route of the line, particularly in Tsangano district.
Rising coal production
The Sena line is one of three railways that are being developed to transport coal from the Moatize Basin in Tete Province to the Indian Ocean coastal ports of Beira and Nacala. It runs to Beira and handled 22 trains a day in each direction prior to the July attack.
The government hopes that the three lines will jointly carry 100m tonnes of coal a year, which would enable Mozambique to overtake South Africa as Africa’s biggest coal exporter. Recent improvements on the Sena Railway have increased its annual coal carrying capacity from 6.5m tonnes a year 20m tonnes a year.
Much longer trains can now operate on the line, with six locomotives pulling 100 coal waggons. At the same time, Vale is pressing ahead with doubling its mining capacity in Tete to 22m tonnes a year. It had looked like such investment could be misplaced because coal prices crashed in 2015 but they have recovered strongly this year.
Similar measures may have to be put in place on the new line that runs from Moatize to Nacala, which passes through Malawi en route. The construction of this line has been largely financed by Vale. Coal trains bound for Nacala were assaulted at least twice in October.
Transport connections in this part of Mozambique are very limited and so it is relatively easy for Renamo fighters to attack trains and then melt away into the forest. It is hoped that access to the new railways for general cargo will boost wider economic development in the region. Nacala, which is reputed to have the deepest natural harbour on the east coast of Africa, now hosts a modern container terminal.
Renamo fought a long and devastating civil war against the government from independence in 1975 until 1992, backed by white supremacist governments in Zimbabwe and South Africa. The movement has contested every national election since then but has become disenchanted with its lack of success. The likelihood of substantial coal and gas income for the government may have encouraged its leaders to make a grab for power.
South Africa’s transport sector, despite accounting for 60% of total logistics costs, could be nearing a stalemate. Owners and operators, even at their most efficient, are at the mercy of escalating road tariffs, upped driver fees, rising maintenance costs, and, of course, erratic fuel prices. For transport-hungry South Africa, the well-being of its logistics sector is crucial.
“We are running out of options,” cautioned Zane Simpson in his presentationof the Logistics Barometer, launched in June 2015 by Stellenbosch University.
Logistics embraces not only the transportation of goods or people, but the organisation of all links in an immense supply chain – from source to warehousing, inventory, and even security. It is therefore not only transportation methods that need a rethink, but changes to all the links that impact rising costs.
A farm nearer the fork
Different to Europe, where most agricultural goods are produced within a small kilometre radius of the point of sale, South Africa’s transport distances are extensive, compounded further by inland mineral reserves that must be transported to seaports. Inland Gauteng especially has a high demand for goods, requiring long-distance carriage.
Based on the current rate of demand growth, freight is likely to triple over the next three decades from the current 781 million tons moved annually. “Imagine three times the number of trucks on our road network and the impact this would have on road infrastructure, traffic and delivery times. If we don’t change, a system shock is inevitable,” explained Simpson.
“What we can still change is behaviour on the demand side. Consumers are spoilt for choice,” says Simpson. “By demanding less variety, consumers will inevitably reduce the amount of transport needed, saving money, resulting in less road congestion, and ultimately benefiting our environment. The logistics industry too must be transparent about these benefits.”
Consider all options
“There has to be a change in the way goods flow between points; whether it be driven by technology or by this reduction in the variety of brands and options on offer to consumers.”
In cases where no alternative exists other than to convey goods over long distances, Intermodal transport (moving containers using multiple transport modes) could have a dramatic impact but requires significant investment into rail systems. “The future,” says Simpson, “would have to include a fixed mode of transport.” Simpson and his team proposes that all other conveyance options; alternative technologies, even the unconventional, need be considered.
“3D printing items close to source, for example, rather than having to transport from afar would help to reduce transport demand and subsequent costs. Seemingly ridiculous ideas even, such as building a canal between KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, long distance conveyor belts, or drones, need to become part of mainstream conversations if we are to reduce logistics costs,” he says.
“Overall, instead of trying to reduce transport costs in isolation, we need to work hard at economic growth, which will solve more problems than just increasing logistics costs,” Simpson says.
Running alongside the Food Hospitality World Africa, taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) on 20-21 May 2015, the collaborative new initiative by MCI South Africa and international exhibition organisers, Fiera Milano Exhibitions Africa will see South Africa’s leading food gurus, scientists, specialists, chefs and activists debate the most fundamental issues affecting the food industry today.
MCI South Africa MD, Rashid Toefy, says, “Topical issues that will come under the spotlight include food sustainability, food security in Africa, catering to religious beliefs in the supply and demand of foodstuff, food procurement-in fact, everything from ‘farm to fork’ and sustainable living.”
A stellar line-up of experts such as the highly acclaimed Professor Tim Noakes and food activist, Jason Drew, described by Leadership Magazine as one of Africa’s “most inspiring green leaders”, will share their motivational and business focused approach to fixing food sustainability problems.
Other leading panellists will include Quinton Naidoo, a science writer and journalist specialising in environmental change, energy issues and policy development and Leonie Joubert, who will tackle food security in Africa. Sylvie Hurford will also explore the links between junk food, sugar, unhealthy processed foods and the rapid increase of people living with obesity, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease and the rising rate of food allergies.
“Food trends are continually evolving and in order to survive and be successful in this competitive industry it is essential to keep ahead of the curve,” adds Toefy. The conference will provide a platform for consumers; industry thought leaders, entrepreneurs, policymakers and innovators to explore challenges and share best practices and innovation.
For more information, go to www.foodforthought2015.co.za
The International community and the big donors who have invested huge amounts of money in Africa over many decades to alleviate hunger and eradicate poverty were not successful in finding solutions to these problems.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the world’s population will increase by one-third between now and 2050.
If current income and consumption growth trends continue, the FAO estimates that agricultural production will have to increase by 60 percent by 2050 to satisfy the expected demand for food.
Agriculture must therefore transform itself if it is to feed a growing global population and provide the basis for economic growth and poverty reduction.
During the period between 2010 and 2012, almost 870 million people were estimated to be undernourished.
In addition, another one billion people are malnourished, lacking essential micronutrients.
About 60 percent of malnourished people are small subsistence farmers. This is shocking because they are the very people on whom most of the countries in Africa and the international community rely to feed the millions of undernourished and malnourished people.
The first obstacle on the road to food security in these mostly underdeveloped African countries is the unwillingness or inability of the countries and the international community to make a paradigm shift and realise that the production of food by small subsistence farmers will never be the solution to famine and poverty in Africa.
These farmers are in many cases struggling to make a living themselves.
It is a fact that no farmers in the world, regardless of their colour, race or the size of their farms, can make a contribution to food security if they cannot produce food profitably and sustainably.
The time has now arrived for everybody involved in wanting to achieve food security in Africa to acknowledge and accept this reality.
Once this obstacle is overcome and the mindshift made towards transformation of the agricultural industry, the road to food security can become a scientific and economic reality in Africa.
But an important question should be asked in this regard: how is it possible that the international community and big donors continued year after year and decade after decade with the same development policy that proved unsuccessful, but then expected a different result?
The ultimate question is, then, what should be done to achieve food security and eradicate poverty in these countries?
The answer is simple: profitable and sustainable production of food commercially.
This is the prerequisite for any country that wants to achieve food security. There is no other way.
The second obstacle to achieving food security and relieving poverty is the fact that the subsistence agricultural industry in Africa has never had the capacity to support an ever-growing population in a sustainable manner.
The fact that the agricultural industry still makes the biggest contribution to economic growth, and that it is still the most important part of the economy, is a further obstacle and remains the most important reason for the underdeveloped status of these African countries.
The only solution is the deliberate transfer of a major proportion of the population out of the agricultural industry to relieve the industry from its enormous burden, even if this takes longer than a generation or two to achieve.
Secondary and tertiary services will provide industries that are essential during the transformation of the current struggling subsistence agriculture to a highly scientific and commercialised industry.
The investment in industrial development, specifically in agriculturally related industries, will have to play a major role in this transformation process.
It will create business and employment opportunities outside the agricultural industry.
Food production must be intensified and vertically expanded. After this further horizontal expansion can be continued.
Production must be commercialised, operated and managed on a profitable basis to be sustainable and to achieve food security and poverty eradication.
Food production should be adapted to climate change and must also be directed towards the conservation of the environment and natural resources.
The international community and big donors should invest in this transfor- mation process by appointing qualified agencies with the required expertise, skills and experience to produce food in these countries.
It should be produced in partnership with and to the benefit of the small subsistence farmers and the population as a whole.
Large projects that are highly labour intensive – such as the production of vegetables, fruit, flowers and other products under irrigation – should also be developed to accommodate a large number of subsistence farmers in a productive way.
The transformation of the agricultural industry should be economically and financially self-sufficient and require only an initial capital investment, with no further financial support.
Industrial development through the investment in agriculturally related enterprises such as seed production, manufacturing of fertilisers, machinery and implements – as well as renewable energy – will be essential wherever it is possible in Africa.
Investment in infrastructure to accommodate the import of production inputs and capital goods which cannot be produced or manufactured locally, as well as for the export of products, must receive a high priority.
Investment in manufacturing and value-added capacity must also have a high priority in developing new markets for agricultural products.
Child labour should not be allowed and all children should attend school and receive further education and training in order to qualify themselves for employment and business opportunities outside the agricultural industry.
An acceptable birth control system would have to be developed and implemented to limit the rapid growth in the population.
As far a South Africa is concerned, the generally accepted goals of the government – of land redistribution and the development of small black farmers – on the one hand and food security on the other can never be compatible.
This is mainly because there is no possibility that small farmers, as in the rest of Africa, can make a meaningful contribution to food security if they cannot produce food profitably and sustainably.
This is a proven fact. Because of the small scale of their farming operations, the severe climate conditions, the fact that most of them might not have the interest, experience, entrepreneurship, or capital or management skills means they could find it very hard to survive financially.
And if they further don’t receive the necessary training and extension services from qualified and experienced agricultural scientists to develop as fully fledged commercial food producers, then it is fair to say that South Africa has taken the wrong road to the longer-term sustainable food security for the country.’
The land redistribution policy and small-farmer development in South Africa, as a purely political objective, may already have placed agriculture on a path to an unprofitable, unsustainable and non-commercial industry.
The question that is also relevant is to what extent these developments – together with the government’s prospects of agriculture apparently being the only industry to create more jobs – have already placed South Africa on a reverse path towards an underdeveloped country?
Fanie Brink is an independent agricultural economist. This article is adapted from a paper he presented yesterday at the Fertiliser Association of Southern Africa Congress in Somerset West.
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