The continent of Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change, mostly through the medium of water. The continent has always had unpredictable rainfall and climate patterns which will be made worse by future climate change, leading to serious impacts on continental social and economic development. Africa is highly dependent on rain-fed agriculture and fluctuations in rainfall can have significant impacts on food production and security. This briefing discusses the adaptation of Africa’s water resource management to climate change. The briefing explains that the continent is endowed with surface and groundwater resources. The former is used for hydropower generation, irrigation, inland fisheries, tourism and recreation, as well as water supply for domestic, industrial and mining operations, and it is predominantly shared by countries across boundaries. Africa is also underlain by complex and unconnected groundwater resources which are the most suitable for developing rural water supplies. However, this extreme hydrology presents two dominant issues for water management in Africa, trans-boundary and integrated. For Africa to adapt its water management, the briefing recommends the following solutions:

Soft Solutions (Information and Institutions) – efforts should be made to ensure the availability of data on surface and groundwater to strengthen the ability to monitor and manage resources, and thus to adapt to climate change.
Hard Solutions (Infrastructure) – these include using, enhancing and managing natural storage such as groundwater, wetlands, and soil moisture, as well as engineered storage such as dams and reservoirs, small ponds and tanks.

The briefing also suggests that international policy for water management adaptation in Africa should play its part through the following measures:

The 'Cancún Adaptation Framework' and 'Adaptation Committee' should be recognised and funded to accelerate international co-operation and action on adaptation.
Plans, projects and programmes need to be urgently implemented to support regions that are most vulnerable to future climate change.
The Integrated Water Resource Management framework, which is already in place, should be considered eligible for adaptation funds.

Publication date
Type of publication
Agriculture and forestry
CTCN Keyword Matches
Runoff control structures to temporarily store rainfall