SADC is a regional grouping of 14 countries, which include
12 continental and two island states. The regional
grouping was formed in 1980 by nine continental member states
as the Southern Africa Development Co-ordination Conference
(SADCC), with the primary objective of reducing economic
dependence on apartheid South Africa. It was then transformed
into the Southern African Development Community in 1992,
seeking to integrate the economies of the region to consolidate
regional co-operation and development.
The continental SADC region covers some
9,271,061 sq km with a population of 200
million. The average population growth rate is
estimated at three percent and the density is
estimated at 21.6 persons per sq km, with just
over 30 percent of the population in urban areas.
However these figures need to be revised to take
into account the impact of HIV/AIDS and ruralurban
The region is endowed with an immense and
wide variety of natural resources, including
minerals, wildlife, forests and fisheries.
Collectively, these natural resources form
complex ecosystems which support a rich
biological diversity and ensures food security.
However to be noted is the fact that the
availability of water, a key natural resource
sustaining the bio-diversity varies significantly
in the region, geographically and seasonally.
In general, water is a finite and scarce resource in many
parts of southern Africa.While in other parts, seasonally,
abundance of water results in devastating floods. Rainfall is
extensive in the northwest region encompassing the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC) and scarce in the southwest parts
that include Namibia where there are no perennial rivers. The
total annual rainfall ranges from 30mm (desert south) to 1,500mm in north and central tropical
regions of Angola and the DRC.
About seven percent of the land area
is a desert receiving less than 100mm
of rainfall a year. The region is prone
to periodic droughts and floods. In
1991-1992 the region experienced its
worst drought in living memory. This
experience appears to have been instrumental
in speeding up the implementation
of water resources management
strategies and regional integration.
Of late, flooding in many
parts of Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe has caused enormous human suffering
and environmental damage.
As a result of the above outlined phenomena, water resources
in SADC are very unevenly distributed. The bulk of the regional
water resources are found in 15 transboundary water
courses (see table).
About 80 percent of the mean annual renewable water resources
(1,873 sq km a year) are from the DRC, which represents about
55 percent of the total SADC water resources. The annual
regional per capita average is 9,500 cubic metres or a daily
equivalence of 27,000 litres.
In general, there is great need to develop water to improve
people's access to the resource in the region. Statistics show
that 40 percent of the people in the region still lack access to safe water for basic human needs. Most people, especially in
rural areas, struggle to get the minimum requirements of 25
litres per day. Women have the heavy burden of carrying water
for domestic use. Avoidable water-related diseases are still
There are numerous problems that make it difficult to provide
people with water in the region. Amongst the key problems is
the unco-ordinated planning of human settlements. A substantial
number of the inhabitants live in the rural areas in the semiarid
south and southwest of the region, dominated by ephemeral
rivers, which rely on ground water. Relocating the people is
often met with resistance and stigma. Resentment leading to
conflicts between the new settlers and those already in the area
may arise. There is also a general attachment to ancestral land
as well as unwillingness to abandon places with graves and
significant cultural sites within SADC communities.
Sustainable socio-economic development and indeed life itself
begins with water. Water transcends national and regional
boundaries in SADC, making it to a large extent, a shared
resource rather than a national one. These limited water
resources coupled with the high population growth rate, the
need for economic development to reduce and eliminate poverty
and competing environmental needs make water a central and
key commodity. Water resource use should be well coordinated,
if efficiency, environmental benefits and economic
growth are to be realized and conflicts prevented.