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Hamady N'Djim, Ministère du Dèveloppement Rural et de l'Environnement
Bakary Doumbia, INFO-STAT
In spite of its crucial value for all life forms on the planet, water, as a resource, has not always received special attention from scientists and politicians. Few have been concerned about strict management of the resource, for the simple reason that everyone believed it was inexhaustible. But today, more and more, it is realized that water is an economic commodity, and as such must be used efficiently if we want to avoid scarcity. The United Nations declaration (encouraged by the World Health Organization) of the "International Decade of Water" (1980-1990) is one of the best examples of this growing realization.
Numerous studies throughout the world have confirmed the important role of rapid global human population increases in exacerbating water problems. The relationship between population and resources is relatively complex, and may be direct or indirect. For example, the most immediate effect of a large number of new inhabitants is an increase in water demand. Population increase also involves a greater exploitation of other natural resources, with a consequent intensification of deforestation, desertification, and pollution--all factors that can damage the water supply.
The unequal distribution of water sources throughout the world means that the problem arises differently from one country to another, and even among different regions of the same country. Seasonal variations exist as well.
The purpose of this chapter is to focus on the possible interactions between population and water resources in the specific case of Mali. The chapter is divided into four parts. The first section describes the demographic situation of Mali, emphasizing probable changes in population numbers and geographic distribution. The second section describes water resources, needs, and usage. Relying on the information provided in these two sections, we will then examine the possible interactions between population dynamics and water availability. In the final section we will draw our conclusions and try to determine the policy implications.
In order to provide a better understanding of the significance of our findings, a preliminary section first presents a brief summary of the geographic, economic, and sociocultural context.
With a population of 9.4 million (PRB, 1995) and an area of 1.24 million square kilometers (km2), Mali is situated in the heart of western Africa. The country has an intertropical climate with a dry season and a rainy season. The dry season extends from November to May, and includes both a hot and a cold period. Northerly winds prevail, especially during the hot period, peaking in April and May when temperatures are 35 to 40 degrees Centigrade (C). The rainy season prevails roughly throughout the rest of the year (June to October). The length and intensity of the rainy season decrease as one moves from south to north: the average rainfall is 1,254 millimeters (mm) in the far south, 553 mm in the center, and 79 mm in the far north of the country.
There are three broad zones of vegetation, known as the Sudanian, the Sahalian, and the Saharan zones, respectively. The Sudanian zone, a region of tree-covered savannah, includes a dry area ("dry savannah"), with rainfall between 600 and 1,000 mm per year, and a humid zone ("Guinean savannah"), where precipitation averages 1,300 mm per year. The Sahalian zone is distinguished by spiny vegetation. The Saharan zone (including the desert) is an area of very sparse vegetation. The Saharan zone occupies about two thirds (65 percent) of the national territory, the Sudanian zone 19 percent, and the Sahalian zone 16 percent.
The country is served by two great rivers, the Senegal and the Niger, and their tributaries, which have their source in the Fouta Djalon highlands in the Republic of Guinea.
Administratively, Mali includes eight regions (Kayes, Kulikoro, Sikasso, Segu, Mopti, Gao, Timbuctu, and Kidal), plus Bamako, the capital. Sikasso and Bamako are situated in the extreme south, in the Guinean savannah; Timbuctu, Gao, and Kidal constitute the northern desert part of the country; Kayes, Kulikoro, Segu, and Mopti occupy the Sahalian zone.
With an annual gross domestic product (GDP) per inhabitant of US$300, Mali is one of the world's least developed countries. Economic activity in Mali is essentially agricultural: 80 to 90 percent of the population is rural, deriving its income from agriculture and livestock. Compared to the proportion of the population it involves, however, this primary sector is not very productive; its share of the GDP was only 45.8 percent in 1990.
The geographical position of Mali subjects it to substantial climatic variations. Years of abundant rainfall alternate with years of scarcity, or even real drought. In the recent history of the country, agricultural production has suffered badly from droughts in 1973 and 1982.
In order to temper the hazards of climate, or, more exactly, the scarcity of rainfall, growers have recourse to itinerant cultivation on burnt terrain, a practice that has consequences for the water cycle.
Although agriculture in Mali is largely rain-dependent, irrigation also plays an important part. Rice, one of the principal agricultural products (comprising some 16 percent of agricultural production) and a food staple in Mali, is primarily cultivated by irrigation (diversion of water from the Niger river) in the regions of Segu and Mopti.
Firewood is the country's principal source of energy: 93 percent of all households used it for fuel as of 1987. Electricity is mostly used by industry; very few households have access to it (less than one percent in 1987). Electricity in Mali is produced almost entirely from hydraulic sources; it comes principally from the Selinguay Dam, built on the Sakarni River, one of the tributaries of the Niger. Of a total national electricity production of 69 megawatts, 71 percent is from hydraulic sources--63 percent from the Selinguay dam alone. Water and electricity are provided by a single company, EDM (Mali Energy), in which the government is the majority shareholder.
According to estimates by the World Bank, the GDP has seen an average annual increase of 1.37 percent between 1980 and 1990. Yet during the same period, because of substantial demographic growth, the GDP per inhabitant has declined by an average of 2.7 percent per year. In more recent years, however, the growth of Mali's economy seems to have improved: according to the national statistics services, the GDP increased by 6 percent from 1994 to 1995.
In 1991 Mali saw major political changes, particularly with the elimination of one-party rule, the introduction of democracy, and the restoration of individual liberties. This new orientation seems to have had positive effects on the economy, particularly in the areas of public management and the revitalization of the private sector.
Evaluation of the demographic situation in Mali is made difficult by the absence of data on the national scale. The statements in this section are based on data from two population censuses (1976 and 1987), and from the Demographics and Health Study (DHS) conducted by Macro International in 1987.
Fertility and Birth Rate
Women's fertility in Mali is very high: the total fertility rate (TFR) was 6.7 children per woman in 1989 (CERPOD, 1989). By comparison, the world average for the same year was 3.6 children; Africa's average was 6.3 children per woman. Related to overall population, there was an average of 47 live births per thousand inhabitants in 1989. This birth rate is higher than the African average (44 live births per thousand inhabitants). More recent estimates suggest an even higher Malian birth rate of 51 live births per thousand inhabitants and a TFR of 7.3 (PRB, 1995).
The overall average masks significant regional variations. In 1987, for example, the TFR was 6.1 in urban areas and 7.0 in rural areas. The Sikasso region had the highest level, 6.9, whereas the Bamako district had a level of 5.4. The urban/rural comparison also shows a marked lowering of birth rates in cities, and a slight increase in the countryside.
One notable characteristic of procreation in Mali is its relative precocity. Half of all mothers in Mali have their first child before the age of 19; ten percent before the age of 15. The situation probably results from early marriage age, especially in the countryside, where women are married, on average, at the age of 16.
Such a fertility rate is often seen only in circumstances where there is little recourse to contraception. The use of effective means of contraception is in fact very limited in Mali. As of 1987, only three percent of married women used modern contraceptive methods.
Sociocultural and economic considerations underlie the pronatalist attitude in Mali. Among these factors can be cited the social prestige related to numerous offspring, as well as the economic value of children, who represent a significant work force in rural areas. The prevalence of such attitudes is an obstacle to the massive and generalized use of contraception.
Mortality and Disease
Mali, like other developing countries, has rather high rates of mortality and disease. The gross mortality rate is estimated at 20 deaths per thousand inhabitants, which corresponds to a life expectancy at birth of 47 years (CERPOD, 1989). Of every thousand children born, 104 die before reaching their first birthday. By way of comparison, the gross mortality rate for all of Africa is estimated to be 13 deaths per thousand inhabitants, life expectancy at birth is 55, and infant mortality is 90 per thousand (PRB, 1995).
Determination of recent tendencies in Mali's general mortality is rather difficult, since estimates are not always consistent. With regard to infant mortality in particular, however, there seems to be a tendency towards deterioration. According to DHS, infant mortality increased from 17 per thousand, for the period 1972 to 1976, to 108 per thousand, for the period 1982 to 1986.
An urban/rural comparison shows decidedly greater risks in the countryside. The infant mortality rate is 92 per thousand in urban areas, but 144 per thousand in rural areas for the 1977 to 1986 period. The rate was especially low in the Bamako district: 73 per thousand for the same period.
Seasonal variations represent another important characteristic of mortality in Mali. Although no nationwide data are available on the subject, the increase in often-fatal illnesses, such as meningitis, cholera, and diarrhetic ailments, during the season of intense heat leads us to believe that the risks of death are higher during this period.
According to hospital statistics, poor hygiene and deficiencies in quantity or quality of water play a significant role as causes of illness. More precisely, the main problems are malaria and diarrhetic diseases in very young children.
Population Distribution and Urbanization
One of the most important aspects of Malian population trends is the uneven geographic distribution. The 6.2 inhabitants per km2 indicated in the 1987 population census actually conceals very substantial differences among various regions of the country. In the north (Gao and Timbuctu), an average of 1.1 people lived in each square kilometer in 1987, compared to 15.9 inhabitants per km2 in the rest of the country. In the Bamako district there was an average of 2,460 inhabitants per km2.
Climatic factors and, especially, water availability are probably related to this uneven spatial distribution. Populations accustomed to making their living through agriculture have little incentive to settle in the northern deserts.
Interior migration in Mali is mainly characterized by a rural exodus, which regularly draws an important percentage of country dwellers to the cities. The most important aspect of this exodus is its seasonal character. The rainy season, upon which rural agriculture depends, lasts less than half the year. Consequently, each year, once that season is over, we see many departures from country to city.
In addition to the limited rainy season, two other factors help explain the departures from the countryside:
The immediate demographic consequence of these movements is rapid urban population growth. Today 22 percent of the Malian population lives in cities, whereas in 1976 the percentage was 16.8. Between 1976 and 1987 the Malian population overall grew at an annual rate of 1.8 percent. During the same period the urban population increase was 3.8 percent; in the Bamako district, population grew by 4.2 percent.
In 1987 the capital city of Bamako held by far the largest agglomeration of people, with 685,000 inhabitants, versus 88,000 inhabitants for the second largest city (Segu). Compared to the national average of 6.2 inhabitants per km2, the population density of Bamako, at 2,460 inhabitants per km2, is out of all proportion.
Other Aspects of Malian Population
The Malian population is quite young: 46 percent are less than 15 years old, and only three percent are age 65 or older. The literacy rate (for persons six years and older) was 18.8 percent in 1987 on average, and about four times higher in urban areas than in the countryside: 44 percent against 11.5 percent, respectively. The literacy level among women is less than half that of men: 11.5 percent and 26.6 percent, respectively. Among school-age children (seven to 12 years), 28.3 percent attended school in 1987. Young girls have less schooling than boys: 21.7 percent versus 34.4 percent. The primary economic activity of women is housework. As a result, the economically "active" population is predominantly (83 percent) male.
The Future Outlook
Between 1960 and 1976 the population of Mali grew from 4.1 million to 6.4 million, representing an annual growth rate of 2.82 percent. In 1987 the Malian population reached 7.8 million, which means an average annual growth rate of 1.81 percent between 1976 and 1987.
This comparison of growth rates over the two periods (1960 to 1976 and 1976 to 1987) suggests a slowing of population expansion in Mali. The situation apparently results from greater emigration during the more recent period, since natural growth, i.e., births exceeding deaths, over the two periods has not declined. As an indication, natural growth in 1976 was 2.5 percent, versus 2.7 percent for 1987.
Considering only natural growth (2.7 percent), the population of Mali would be expected to double every 26 years. According to projections made by the national statistical services, the population of Mali will be about ten million in the year 2000, and 19 million in 2020, if the current fertility trend (6.7 children per woman) continues.
Given the high fertility level, we should also expect an even younger population. In the year 2020, those under 15 years of age will represent 50 percent of the population. The rate of urbanization may well also increase. Based on the growth rate observed in Bamako between 1976 and 1987 (4.2 percent), the population of that city should be about 1.1 million in the year 2000, and 2.6 million in 2020. These estimates would amount to densities of 4,112 and 9,720 inhabitants per km2 for the years 2000 and 2020, respectively. According to a recent study (CERPOD, 1991), the rate of population increase would be greater in proportion to the size of localities. For example:
As noted, emigration has acted as a brake on Malian population growth in the recent past. However, there is reason to expect the reverse in the near future, i.e., an increase of in-migration and a slowing of out-migration. This assumption is based on Mali's improving economic situation, as suggested by the country's recent economic growth rate. One finds in Mali today increasing numbers of nationals from countries that were formerly popular destinations of Malian emigrants, for example Cote d'Ivoire. This observation supports our belief that in-migration is increasing, although there is no current nationwide study of the issue. If our theory is verified, the expansion of the Malian population would be even greater than current projections lead us to believe.
Control of population growth, spatial redistribution of the population, including women in development, and conservation of renewable resources, are four of the ten objectives that form the main lines of Malian population policy. Stabilization of population growth is planned through gradual control of fertility. Among other strategies concerning fertility is a 60 percent increase in the use of contraception between now and the year 2020. Although fertility control is planned, the Malian government considers the current level satisfactory.
The strategy for the protection and conservation of natural resources is structured around two points:
Among the strategy's components is a reduction of the populationís pressure on firewood, which now represents 93 percent of household energy consumption.
Mali possesses substantial resources made up of:
Beyond these overall numbers, however, the available quantities and access facilities vary from region to region as shown in the table below.
Potential availability is believed to be broadly sufficient, considering theoretical annual water needs at some 6.12 billion m3, shared as follows:
Specifically concerning exploitation of subterranean water, the distribution among types of use varies from one region to another, as the following table shows.
It must be acknowledged that water resources are very poorly utilized, with only 0.2 percent of underground water and 12 percent of surface water being exploited. However, significant steps have been taken to mobilize water resources:
In Mali the following guidelines are observed for potable water supply:
Sources of potable water supply in rural areas include:
The satisfaction rate for rural area "potable water" is about 49 percent. The following table shows the rate of access to the country's potable water by region.
As part of urban hydraulic water supply strategies for centers with more than 2,000 inhabitants, there are plans for creation of modern systems of water delivery on some level, either basic or complete. The centers are distributed as follows:
As of 1991, 19 of 27 centers surveyed had a modern water supply, including ten fed by surface water and nine by subterranean water. In Bamako 312,000 inhabitants (or 40.5 percent of the people) are provided with a water delivery network (good fountains and private connections). The water delivery service rate for all urban centers in Mali is 35 percent on average. Only five out of 51 semi-urban centers are equipped with a water delivery system.
A 1992 survey of 384 rural centers showed that:
National policy in the water sector aims at satisfying basic potable water needs by the year 2001 in order to improve the quality of life. The proposed strategy is structured around:
A united effort by all parties is required for resolution of critical problems, including high labor costs, lack of maintenance of drainage equipment, and overly lengthy procedures for creating taps (water holes).
Important programs are now underway in the areas of urban and rural hydraulics, both agricultural and pastoral. These programs have encountered a number of obstacles, particularly high investment costs, poor maintenance by service recipients, population mobility, failure to control population growth. The effects of population dynamics on water resources are examined in the following section.
Effects of Population Dynamics on Water Supply
The quantity of fresh water per person per year in Mali has declined from 15,853 m3 in 1955 to 6,729 m3 in 1990 (PAI, 1993). To put these figures in broader perspective, the world average is 7,700 m3 per person per year, and the minimum safe threshold is considered by international experts to be 1,700 m3 per person per year (Falkenmark and Widstrand, 1992). Thus Mali does not appear to be a country suffering from serious water scarcity. Even by the year 2020, when the population of Mali is predicted to be 19 million, every Malian will have about 3,263 m3 of water, an average that is far from the warning threshold. We must note, however, the substantial anticipated decline of 52 percent between 1990 and 2020.
Despite these statistics, daily life for Malians is much less bright. Water problems in Mali essentially take the forms of access difficulties and uneven temporal and geographical distribution. Less than half the overall population (46 percent) had access to potable water in 1992; the percentage is even lower (about eight percent) in the northern regions of Gao and Timbuctu. Agriculture, the cornerstone of the Malian economy, can only be practiced for a quarter of the year. Gao and Timbuctu hold the greatest share of subterranean water resources, but receive the least annual rainfall.
These problems are exacerbated by poor utilization of resources and rapid population growth. In addition to its direct effect on the amount of water available per person, demographic expansion, by virtue of the resultant pressure on natural resources, can create other environmental problems with an indirect effect on the water supply, particularly through cyclical changes. In Mali the principal environmental problems of this type are desertification and deforestation.
Desertification and deforestation result from two factors, both of which are exacerbated by an expanding population:
If current demographic tendencies continue, consumption of firewood will more than triple between 1987 and 2020. In fact, based on an average annual consumption of 650 to 750 kilograms per person, firewood needs may increase from their 1987 level of 5.4 million tons to 18 million tons in 2020. Thus, over the period 1987 to 2020 about 170,000 km2-ónearly 14 percent of the national territory-ówill be laid to waste.
Unfortunately, to this overuse of the environment we must add the degradation of soil quality caused by common cultivation methods. One of the essential characteristics of Malian agriculture is its itinerant aspect, which is linked both to insufficient rainfall and to the need to feed a growing population. In fact, to compensate for the rainfall deficit, peasants till and cultivate the areas around permanent waterholes (backwaters, streams, and rivers). From this activity results the silting up and eventual filling in of river beds by the fertile soil coming from fields, with a consequent reduction in the life span of water courses.
Insufficient electricity production represents another aspect of the effect of population dynamics on water problems in Mali. Because of urbanization and improved living conditions, the annual increase in electricity consumption in Mali today is estimated to be eight percent. This consumption rate is even greater during the hottest season of the year. It is during this same period that production by the Selinguay dam, the principal supplier of electricity, is at its lowest, because of the river's lower water level at that time. The resumption of normal production occurs only with the return of the rains. In 1996 a delay in precipitation caused the total shutdown of production by the dam. From May through July of 1996, economic activity in the major cities was nearly paralyzed by the lack of electricity.
Strictly speaking, water availability does not have a direct effect on population, at least in numerical terms. The quantity and quality of water that people have at their disposal, however, are essential determinants of social and economic development. The most vulnerable areas are health and the economy.
As mentioned in the introduction, water quality and quantity problems are a significant cause of death and disease in Mali. The prevalence of cholera, an essentially water-related disease, is one of the most obvious health consequences of the water problem in Mali. Indeed in recent years we have seen a resurgence of this disease in Mali, especially during the hot season (April to June). The Mopti region, which is the most dependent on the Niger River, is most affected. In mid-1996 1,423 cases of cholera, resulting in 172 deaths, were officially listed in Mali, representing a fatality rate of 12 percent.
Onchoncerosis, or river blindness, is another water-related health problem in Mali. It affects all river basins regions in the country, a total area of 350,000 square kilometers, putting nearly five million people at risk. Onchoncerosis is the primary cause of blindness in Mali.
Diarrhea, an illness linked to poor nutritional hygiene, including poor water quality, is a real public health problem in Mali. It is especially prevalent among children under five. This illness is considered the second greatest cause of mortality among children, and accounts for 24 to 30 percent of all visits to public health centers.
All economies are sensitive to water availability. This sensitivity, however, is much greater when the economy is largely dependent on the agricultural sector, as is the case with Mali. Conjectural variations about the economic situation in Mali are most often dictated by changes in the level and distribution of rainfall from one year to another, or within the same year. In 1982, for example, the GDP fell about 40 percent compared to 1981, because of insufficient rainfall.
Moreover, since the electricity produced in Mali is mostly of hydraulic origin, industrial production is broadly dependent on water supply. Recent problems with electrical supply could have serious repercussions for industrial production.
Given the preceding explanation of population dynamics and water in Mali, the following policy options may be considered as contributing to the solution of these problems.
Mobilization and Effective Management of Resources
Access to potable water for most of the Malian population, especially in rural areas, will require a greater utilization of subterranean water (e.g., by building sinking wells), especially in the desert and sub-desert regions of the country--Mopti, Timbuctu, and Gao.
For efficient management of resources an essential step is the privatization of EDM, which alone currently controls the delivery of water and electricity to the country's major cities. In the long term, greater efficiency will require competition in the water and electricity supply market.
Development of New Energy Sources
In order to reduce damage to the ecosystem, consumption of firewood absolutely must be limited. The country has enormous potential in terms of new and renewable energy sources, particularly solar energy. With an average solar potential of five kilowatt hours per square meter per day, Mali can hope to maximize this perennial natural resource in order to stop, or at least considerably reduce, the exhaustion of forest resources.
The currently high cost of solar energy is one of the major obstacles to broad use of this resource. The government will have to intensify its research into utilization of this form of energy in order to make it accessible to the great majority of Malians. The current law forbidding use of solar energy in areas served by EDM should be repealed.
Improvement of Agricultural Productivity
Improvement of agricultural productivity is imperative in order to change the itinerant character of Malian agriculture. This improvement could be achieved by:
Control of Population Dynamics
If the present rate of Malian population growth continues, the results of any efforts to improve the level and quality of life, including water availability, will be severely limited. Under these conditions, measures aimed at modifying the population dynamics are an urgent necessity.
Since we expect a gradual decline in mortality, which is the case in nearly all developing countries, a reduction in demographic growth must occur through a greater reduction in the birthrate. Of all possible measures, two options are essential:
Certainly contraception has a direct effect on the birthrate, but its effectiveness as a means of limiting fertility depends ultimately on its degree of use. The encouragement of widespread use of contraception in Mali encounters sociocultural obstacles that only increased awareness can overcome. Improving the educational level is therefore a necessary condition for progress in this direction.
Apart from the overall numerical increase in population, urbanization is another major demographic problem that authorities must address. In order to limit urbanization, or at least curb its negative effects, steps must be taken to improve living conditions in rural areas. Creation of jobs and development of social and health infrastructures in those areas are measures that can help realize this goal. Increasing peasant incomes by improving agricultural productivity and raising prices paid to producers are complementary steps.
At present Mali possesses substantial water resources; available quantities per person are theoretically adequate. Because of population dynamics, however, these quantities may be substantially reduced in the future. Beyond the issue of quantity, other water problems exist, the most serious of which are limited access and uneven spatial and temporal distribution. Population dynamics, while not entirely responsible for these problems, serve to worsen them.
It is imperative that we solve these problems, which are real threats to the country's health and economic development. The necessary policy implications include the following: mobilizing resources and improving management; improving agricultural productivity; developing new energy sources in order to limit current practices that disrupt the water cycle; and, finally, addressing population dynamics.
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CERPOD, 1989. Population of the Sahel, 1989 (Data Sheet). Bamako, Mali: CERPOD.
Doumbia, B., 1990. Migration in Mali. Bamako, Mali: National Office of Planning.
Falkenmark, M., and Widstrand, C., 1992. Population and Water Resources: A Delicate Balance (PRB Population Bulletin). Washington, DC: PRB.
National Office of Statistics and Data Processing, 1993. Mali: Profile of Poverty. Bamako, Mali: National Office of Statistics and Data Processing.
National Office of Statistics and Data Processing, 1992. Perspectives on Resident Population of Mali, 1997 to 2022. Bamako, Mali: National Office of Statistics and Data Processing.
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National Office of Statistics and Data Processing, 1991. Proceedings from National Seminar on Population Policies in Mali. Bamako, Mali: National Office of Statistics and Data Processing.
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PAI (Population Action International), 1993. Sustaining Water: Population and the Future of Renewable Water Supplies. Washington, DC: Population Action International.
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