Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a visual representation of a human being’s motivation patterns. All of the needs in the bottom of the pyramid must be met in order to be motivated by anything listed in the next level.
[ Figure 1: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Image]
If an individual does not have access to food, clean water, warmth and rest, they will never be able to reach ‘self-actualization’, which includes being a productive member of society, having a job, achieving goals, etc. Individuals who do not have access to clean water, food, and shelter will not be able to “move up the pyramid” and will most likely remain in perpetual poverty. This is the case for many individuals in Sub-Saharan Africa who do not have access to clean water.
On average, it takes three hours to find, retrieve, and transport water each day. The UN estimated that Sub-Saharan Africa loses 40 billion hours every year collecting water. This is time that could have put into schoolwork or into learning a trade. Not to mention the issues with the water itself; it is almost never actually clean, and many children develop (preventable) diseases and illnesses such as diarrhea. The jugs used, called jerry cans, can weigh between 40-70 pounds when full.
Unclean water/lack of water negatively affects agriculture. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that out of the 795 million undernourished people in the world (2016), 233 million of them were in Sub-Saharan Africa (1 in 4 people). Plants cannot be established into the ground without water, even plants that may be used to the arid climate.
These issues that stem from a lack of clean water cause many negative environmental impacts. One issue is that of population growth. The Sub-Saharan Africa region is currently in Stage 2 of the Demographic Transition Model, meaning their birth rates are incredibly high and their death rates, although high, are much lower than their birth rates. They are between 2.5-3.5% population growth, and the total population is expected to double within the next 25 years. It is already apparent that population growth has put a strain on our limited resources, and many scientists are worried about relentless population growth in developing countries. With Sub-Saharan Africa’s continual population boom, the global environment could possibly be at risk from resource depletion as well. Birth rates of a region naturally lower when more of the population is able to have a job. Since many Sub-Saharan Africans are forced to spend their days (from a young age) fetching water, many school days are lost (443 million to be exact). This lack of education leaves many not able to secure a job (especially women), which keeps the birth rate trends high.
[Figure 2: Demographic Transition Model] [Figure 3: World Pop Growth %]
In conclusion, water is a resource many of us, including myself, take for granted since we have always had access to it. Water is connected to all things and affects all things. This is no exception in Sub-Saharan Africa, and it is prevalent in the issue of population and also in lack of food, sanitation, and many other things. If an all encompassing issue, such as water, is able to be tackled, a whole new spectrum of possibility could be unlocked for this region.
Is there any beneficial way for the US to get behind issues like this? What can we do from an engineering standpoint to approach this problem? Are there any technologies available that could be implemented to alleviate this issue?