Rising global temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns could affect water flows on Africa’s mighty Nile and Limpopo rivers, an agricultural research group said Monday.
The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, a global think-tank, warned the changes could have major effects for countries that share the rivers — raising the risk of conflicts erupting over water use, already a subject of often touchy regional relations.
Their study raised the greatest concerns for the Limpopo River Basin, including parts of Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and running through a region already chronically dry.
The findings were presented at the International Forum on Water and Food in Pretoria.
The group’s projections found that between now and 2050 hotter weather and fewer rains could hurt food production and deepen poverty.
“We need to ask whether current agriculture development strategies in the Limpopo, which are predicated on current levels of water availability, are in fact realistic for a climate future that may present new challenges and different opportunities,” said Mr Simon Cook, a scientist who worked on the project.
“In some parts of the Limpopo, even widespread adoption of innovations like drip irrigation may not be enough to overcome the negative effects of climate change on water availability,” Mr Cook added.
For the Nile, the researchers projected that increased water evaporation could “reduce the water balance of the upper Blue Nile Basin”.