The University of Zambia (UNZA)
The University of Zambia (UNZA) has, for nearly 44 years, pursued its vision as a Centre of Excellence in higher education for individuals, industry, and society. This has been achieved through the provision of quality education, research, and scholarly programmes for strategic human resource development. Promotion of national and regional development, through relevant and appropriate partnerships has been key to strategic human capacity development at the UNZA.
The goal of the UNZA is to effectively contribute to national development by providing skilled human resource, conducting research and providing service that fosters national development.
Research in water development, exploitation, utilisation and management constitutes one of the most important contributions the University of Zambia is making towards the advancement of knowledge, and provision of a repertoire of evidence-based information in facilitating the country’s development. To this end, the different faculties of the UNZA – Agriculture, Engineering, Mines and Natural Sciences – in collaboration with the Department of Water Affairs (DWA), the Department of Housing and Infrastructure Development (DHID), Department of Irrigation, and water utilities have collaborated in conducting relevant research in the exploration, development, exploitation, and management of the country’s water resources for domestic and industrial supplies, irrigation and ecosystem support. This has been purposefully done to ascertain the availability of good quality water in quantities that are able to drive national development and support the various user-needs.
The UNZA has been actively involved in various research activities involving mapping of the various effects of national development and expanding agricultural activities on water, especially groundwater. To this effect, staff in the four aforementioned faculties of the University of Zambia have been actively participated in UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, WWF, IUCN, USAID, DANIDA, Mining Companies and Government Ministries, among others, to assess impacts of development, including agriculture, on water quality and quantity.
Further, the UNZA is involved in capacity building at postgraduate level. However, the full potential of this programme has not been realised because of sponsorship challenges from both industry and government.
At a more applied level, food security faces an increasing risk from declines in agricultural production due to inadequate utilisation of water and land resources. To this effect, the UNZA has been recognised as having a comparative advantage within the SADC region on land and natural resources management, and thus, has a regional mandate for hosting the SADC Land and Water Management programme – the SADC-L&WMP. In addition, the UNZA holds the interim mandate from AU/NEPAD as the Pillar 1 (an entry-point) Lead Institution for investment of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), whose objective are (i) to eliminate pervasive hunger and malnutrition in Africa, and (ii) to improve Africa’s food independence by sustainably reducing the amounts spent by each country on food imports. Thus, the basis for CAADP is that agriculture-led development is fundamental to cutting hunger, reducing poverty, generating economic growth, reducing the burden of food imports and opening the way to the expansion of exports. Pillar 1 is a Framework for Sustainable Land and Water Management (FSLWM).
The challenge for Pillar 1 as it offers advice on sustainable land and water management across the continent will need to deal, among others, with:
- Although groundwater forms the largest component of all fresh water bodies in the hydrologic cycle, agriculture has not quite recognised this resource as an important source of water for its irrigation activities.
- The result of increased food production will require agriculture to become more intensive, producing higher yields per hectare by relying on greater use of chemicals and technological inputs (more fertilizers and pesticides and bigger equipment). Implications of these practices on water quality (and quantity) must be adequately articulated.
- Most African countries have rivers that cross international boundaries (transboundary) and are shared. Therefore, a lot of consideration must be made for possible up-stream and down-stream user-conflicts arising from increased use of such water bodies as each country strives to increase food production.
Further, the University of Zambia has participated, in collaboration with other national and international institutions, in extensive awareness campaigns, at home and abroad, to promote the visibility of the continent’s invisible groundwater resource under the lead-auspices of the African Groundwater Network and CapNet. These campaigns have highlighted issues pertaining to why levels and rates of abstraction of the resource need to be balanced against recharge, and what/how factors (especially human) contribute to (ground)water pollution and salinity. As it may be well appreciated, abstraction of groundwater at a rate, that exceeds natural replenishment may cause saline or contaminated water to be drawn into the groundwater store. The goal for this initiative is to produce results that lead to the development of proactive measures that check the development of scenarios that lead to the compromise the quality and quantity of the available water resources.
This exercise, although still in its formative stage, has been undertaken with the understanding that sustainable water supplies cannot be assured, unless there is appropriate management of the resource based on sufficient knowledge of groundwater systems being tapped.
For more information, contact:
Dr. Daniel CW Nkhuwa, School of Mines, University of Zambia, P O Box 32379, Lusaka, Zambia
Dr. Elijah Phiri, School of Agricultural Sciences, University of Zambia, P O Box 32379, Lusaka, Zambia
Prof. Stephen Simukanga, Vice Chancellor, University of Zambia, P O Box 32379, Lusaka, Zambia
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