Saturday, July 05, 2014

Africa, Climate Change and Migration

Climate crisis is forcing people to migrate, leave their homes and occupation. Climate change threatens to cause one of the biggest refugee crises of all time and climate change experts have warned that up to 200 million people would be forced to abandon their homes over the course of the next century. It's being observed in Africa. Migration as a result of climate change is not isolated to the southern parts of Africa. The Horn of Africa and Sahel regions have experienced among the worst climate change induced famines, forcing people to seek refuge in other countries. Millions have been affected.

The Zimbabwean reported on July 2, 2014 :

“Makuleke village is a melting pot for illegal migrants from Zimbabwe and Mozambique searching for greener pastures in their wealthy southern neighbor. It is located on South Africa 's eastern border area with Mozambique on the outskirts of the Kruger National Park.

Timothy Murombedzi, 30, from Buhera district in Zimbabwe , is one of many people living in South Africa illegally. “I was a farmer in Zimbabwe but the climate conditions have become unpredictable. It is now difficult to have a good rain-fed cropping season. I used to have more than 20 head of cattle but lost 15 beasts due to drought. I came here in 2010 and am doing menial jobs on the local farms. It is better than watching my cattle dying back home. Yes some people are running away from Mugabe's iron-fist rule but I am not one of those people. I am running away from drought and hunger,” Murombedzi said.

Murombedzi is one of the millions of climate change refugees from Zimbabwe searching for sustenance in various countries in and outside Africa . Although there are many reasons that force people to migrate, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is increasingly recognising that environmental degradation and climate change are among major drivers in both forced and voluntary migration.

The accepted line of argument has been that most of the migrants in South Africa are political and economic refugees, the truth however is that some are climate change refugees. And some people are migrating from as far as the Sahel Region and Horn of Africa in search of jobs. Crops are failing, livestock is dying and clean water is becoming scarce, forcing many people to abandon their traditional homes.

USA climate change activist, journalist and author, Ross Gelbspan warned that: ‘…. as we experience more crop failures, water shortages, and uncontrolled migrations by people whose lands become less able to support them, governments will become more totalitarian in their efforts to keep order in the face chaos. So it's really the political and economic aspects that I've been thinking about.'

Zimbabwean climate change journalist based in South Africa , Fidelis Zvomuya, says farmers in Zimbabwe no longer employ as many workers as before due to persistent drought. This forces people to cross borders in search of employment in neighboring countries. The lack of food in areas like Matabeleland provinces in Zimbabwe where droughts are now an annual event is forcing people to cross to South Africa for jobs.

An expert on climate change migration, Mukundi Mutasa, recently opined that discussing migration was particularly important to southern Africa , a region that had suffered a number of climate-induced disasters in recent history. These include the flooding in the Zambezi Valley in Mozambique and Zimbabwe and in the Namibia 's Caprivi region, and droughts across the entire region. Mutasa warned that the mass movements have resulted in conflict among people as they fight over resources. Conflicts as a result of climate change migration have been evident in some parts of Zimbabwe where people are moving in large numbers to regions which are still receiving good rainfall. ‘And the xenophobic attacks in South Africa in the recent years are just a dress rehearsal of impending fights over resources', he warned.

Experts say poverty, failing ecosystems, vulnerability to natural hazards and gradual environmental changes have always been linked to migration. The effects of warming and drying in some regions will reduce agricultural potential and undermine the provision of clean water and availability of fertile soil. The increase in extreme weather events such as heavy rains and resulting flash or river floods in tropical regions will affect even more people and generate mass displacement.  A sea-level rise will permanently destroy extensive and highly productive low-lying coastal areas that are home to millions of people who will have to relocate permanently. Its main impacts are escalating humanitarian crises, rapid urbanization and associated slum growth, and stalled development.

From the Countercurrents website here

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