(Africa Report, July-August 1983)




During what became known as the great southern African drought of 1983, a resident of was quoted saying, “There’s only one person who can make water- and he’s not making it.”  At this time the average rain deficit for the region as a whole would be equivalent to an entire 12 months of normal rainfall.  In Mozambique the drought has left an estimated over four million people living in hunger, and in Zimbabawe half of the population is surviving this winter on emergency government food, costing the country $506 million.  Other problems include acceleration of urban drift, and near complete losses of the year’s harvest, with some farmers reporting losses up to 70 percent.  Even South Africa, often referred to as the breadbasket of Africa, is not immune to the drought and its accompanying problems.  South African is suffering from is smallest yielding crop since WW II and will half to import to meet domestic needs for the crop and stiff price increases in the price of maize have been pushed onto the consumers. 


Without some form of relief many of these African countries economies do not have promising futures.  South Africa is sharing its wealth somewhat by making available $18.4 million for drought relief to other neighboring countries and by giving equal access to imported maize supplies.  But the actions of South Africa alone are not enough to solve the problem and enable the region to develop economically.  A doctoral thesis by Philip van der Riet suggests that if would be in the interests of the adjoining territories to cooperate in the continued development of the Reef in South Africa, with a future sharing of the profits and water resources.  One reason why this proposal is interesting is because it is so cost effective costing only $9.2 million, where a single desalination plant costs near $50 billion, far too much for any single country to afford at this point in time. 



Summary by Ryan Michael McClure