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Water availability crucial factor for assessing African investment opportunities

Foreign investors engaged in biofuel and food crop production should assess opportunities for foreign agricultural investment in terms of water availability, according to Tim Williams from the International Water Management Institute

Both land and water are interlinked, which means exploring water availability is important for investing in Africa for various reasons, Williams said in his article titled Water implications of large scale land acquisitions in Ghana.

In the sub-humid and semi-arid agro-ecological zones where the biggest of these recent LSLAs are found, access to water is vital for land productivity, partly because of the high inter-annual and inter-seasonal fluctuations in rainfall.

A number of causes for investors only assessing land availability for investment opportunities include separate and parallel legal, policy and institutional frameworks for land and water governance-divorcing water from land acquisition procedures.

Other causes include a land acquisition process without intervention of regulatory agencies at critical initial stages of negotiation, lack of government-sanctioned assessment of current and future water requirements for crop production and ecosystem services, and land transaction practices that reflect power and information asymmetries between investors and customary land owners and on the other hand, between customary land owners, represented by chiefs, and their subjects, Williams explained. 

Williams said access to water for agricultural production by smallholder farmers can be an important way to tackle poverty which is widespread in Africa.