Are land deals driving ‘water grabs’?
Investors in land often look for land with a high growing potential, which means land with lots of rainfall or land that can be irrigated. In multimillion dollar investments involving irrigation, investors typically want to secure water rights as part of the deal. Motivated by potential revenues from water fees and the prospect of improved agricultural productivity, many African governments are signing away water rights for decades to large investors. But they are doing so with little regard for how this will impact the millions of other users — from fishermen to pastoralists — whose livelihoods depend on customary access to water. Water managers must seriously consider the extent to which water rights should be linked to land in this way before setting a long-term precedent that could compromise sustainable and equitable supply to all users in the future.