Thursday, January 16, 2020

2020 - Africa's response to climate change

-United Nations World Food Program recently released 2020 Global Hotspots Report. According to the report, millions of citizens from Sub-Saharan African countries will face hunger in the first half of 2020 for several reasons including conflict, political instability and climate-related events such as below-average rainfall and flooding.

Focusing in on the latter, climate-related extreme events have already caused 52 million people across Africa to go hungry and over 1 million people to be displaced by flooding. 
Of course, African countries are not alone in this challenge and Italy, Southern California, and Southern France have recently been impacted by flooding linked to the changing climate.  Australia has equally suffered from massive bushfires linked to the changing climate.
Many African countries are strengthening their predictive capabilities. For instance, there are several centers that provide climate-hydro-agricultural monitoring and outlooks including AGRHYMET in West Africa, The IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre in Eastern Africa, and SADC drought monitoring center in southern Africa.
Furthermore, in 2019, three Southeast African countries, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, along with four Southwest Indian Ocean countries launched the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Platform, with the goal of sharing disaster prevention information.
In addition, individual countries are doing their best to implement predictive frameworks. Kenya, for example, has a Predictive livestock early warning system to help pastoralist communities. Uganda has a National Climate Change Policy, a supporting political structure for its implementation and has continued to step up its efforts on addressing climate change. Ghana has a national climate change adaptation strategy and in 2018, UNEP worked with Ghana to implement a drought early warning system.
However, even with so many predictive frameworks initiatives, the African continent is yet to protect its citizens from climate-change related disasters. Clearly, disaster predictive frameworks can only go so far.
Thus, African countries must double down and implement many other complementing efforts to mitigate climate change and help farmers and citizens of African countries to stay on top. After all, even if predictive frameworks succeed, farmers must still be able to prevent disastrous climate change impacts such as drought.
Once crops have been planted, for example, farmers are still limited in actions they can take to protect their growing crops from extremities such as drought and flooding.
The foundation of resilient agriculture begins with healthy soil. Healthy soils, that have soil organic matter, improve the activities of microorganisms that live in the soil, which in turn help plants to utilize nutrients and cope with climate-related stresses such as drought and flooding while combatting pests and diseases.
Of course, it matters what crop varieties that farmers plant. As such, there is need for more investment on science that is geared towards developing crop varieties that are resilient to drought and flooding.
More than ever, initiatives such as stress tolerant maize, the Wheat rust resistant seed  and initiatives aimed at breeding disease resistant and improved cassava plants, must be sustained, and the varieties developed from these efforts must be deployed to farmers.  But, only with healthy soils as a base will all the complementing measures fully deliver on their promise.
Climate-smart agriculture success stories coming out from African countries show that indeed, adopting these practices has the potential help African citizens to deal with the new and harsh realities accompanying the changing climate.

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