End Deadly Water Shortages Affecting Small Farmers

Target: Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank

Goal: Increase aid-based loans to sub-Saharan African nations for the purpose of installing irrigation systems.

Sub-Saharan Africa, a region of Africa defined as being beneath, or south of, the Sahara, regularly faces shortages of food and water. The effects of these shortages are compounded by economic problems, explosive population growth, and the fact that the region lacks a widespread system of irrigation available to both large- and small-scale farmers.

Humanitarian news outlet IRIN notes that, “Smallholder farmers account for some 80 percent of food production in sub-Saharan Africa,” and that, “With only a tiny proportion of farmland under irrigation, and reliable water sources becoming scarcer, most crops depend on rainfall, which climate change is making increasingly erratic and unpredictable.”

The World Bank, an organization which grants aid-based loans to developing countries, has time and again focused on food and water security in sub-Saharan Africa. While its loans have been effective in helping many countries, we believe it should hone in on the specific area of irrigation, a practice which, when it comes to what are mostly small-scale subsistence farmers scattered throughout sub-Saharan Africa, can mean the difference between life and death.

If vulnerable parts of Africa wait too long to modernize their agriculture, it may be too late: Climate change threatens to undermine long-established agricultural systems throughout the world, dramatically shifting growing seasons and weather patterns over the course of this century.

There is perhaps no place on Earth as vulnerable to the weather-ravaging effects of climate change as sub-Saharan Africa, which also happens to be the area of the world with the highest population growth. Feeding ever more people in a volatile region plagued by global warming will require a dissemination of life-saving technology, for which the World Bank should provide loans.


Dear President Kim,

Please urge the World Bank to direct more funds to providing irrigation to the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. This region’s agriculture is mostly made up of small-scale and subsistence farmers who mainly depend on rain to grow their crops, and subsequently feed their families. Add to this the facts that (1) the region represents one of the areas most vulnerable to the weather-ravaging effects of climate change, which is projected to dramatically worsen over this century, and (2) that this region is experiencing, and will continue to experience the highest rate of population growth in the world, and the possibility of mass famine becomes all too real.

The United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change notes that, “Africa is likely to be the continent most vulnerable to climate change. Among the risks the continent faces are reductions in food security and agricultural productivity, particularly regarding subsistence agriculture, increased water stress and, as a result of these and the potential for increased exposure to disease and other health risks, increased risks to human health.”

Irrigation is a known and exceedingly effective method of protecting crops during droughts, and in areas subject to physical or economic water scarcity.

Please encourage the World Bank to direct more of its aid-based and food security-related loans to providing irrigation to sub-Saharan Africa.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Roger Kidd

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