Cape Verde faces chronic water shortages after years without rain

The crisis has now become a central campaign issue for the country's upcoming parliamentary elections.

Video Transcript


NICOLAS HAQUE: Years without rain has turned the island of Santiago into this. There is little green in this part of an island nation known by its Portuguese name of Cape Verde, or Green Cape. Lifeless, sparsed only with acacia trees, is the village of Santa Cruz, where Gilson Carvalhal is campaigning to become a local MP on a promise to bring water to a region ravaged by drought and abandoned by farmers. He says a new parliament and a change of direction will solve the country's water problems.

INTERPRETER: When villages ask for help, the administration ask if you are a supporter of the ruling party. People do what they can to manage their water. Now, it's up to the politicians to bring water to the population.

NICOLAS HAQUE: It's a promise made before and left unfulfilled by politicians. After generations suffering from a shortage of food, farming communities turned to the sea to escape hunger. They live in shantytowns in the capital's prior city center. Here too, there is not enough water.

INTERPRETER: If I had running water, I would use it to bathe for the bathroom, to wash our clothes and our dishes. Water is life. I can go without food, but not without a glass of water.

NICOLAS HAQUE: For the opposition, more dams and less water wastage is the solution. There are over 100 candidates in this election. Only 72 seats are up for grabs, and while they come from different political opinions, all share a common concern. Access to water to the population.

The governing party led by Prime Minister, Ulisses Correia e Silva, says climate change is to blame. His government is investing in desalinization plants like this one, pumping 20,000 metric liters of fresh water in the capital. Still, that is not enough. In an interview with Al Jazeera, he says we need to rethink our relationship with the precious resource.

INTERPRETER: The challenge is to transform ocean water for domestic use to power our economy and industry. We need to be water resilient because we cannot predict rainfall. Rains become irregular, and so we can't seem to plan ahead, so we need to find alternative solutions.

NICOLAS HAQUE: For now, people in Praia are organizing their own water distribution. With no rain in sight for those inland, it will take more than political will to bring this fragile and parched landscape back to life. Nicholas Haque, Al Jazeera, Santa Cruz, Cape Verde.