COP26 has commenced. Past experience shows thousands of experts and politicians travelling the globe regularly to these climate summits, indulging in facile talk and false promises can offer no hope for worldwide citizens who are earnest in their desire to protect the planet and maintain a liveable environment. Political and business allegiance to the global capitalist system of profit first highlights once again that the call must be “System Change Not Climate Change.”
The continent that’s most at risk from the effects of climate change is Africa where people and communities are already paying the price of the climate crisis with their livelihoods and lives. Climate change has increased desertification, deforestation, flooding, and stronger storms, all leading to increased population displacement. To feed oneself, to provide for ones family, men and women will always seek other lands, and while the grass is still literally greener on the other side then men and women will endeavour to reach it. Only when it is possible to maintain an adequate living standard at home, will men and women stay at home. That is something capitalism will never be able to offer many people throughout Africa. One extreme event can drive people into poverty almost instantly. Rural poverty and food insecurity have long been a reality in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, but rising temperatures and the disruption of seasonal rains upon which millions of small-scale farmers rely is creating altogether new challenges for Africa’s poorest people. Researchers warn that the effects of global warming in sub-Saharan Africa are putting peace and stability in the region at risk, with reports concluding that climate factors and the struggle for a share of scarce water resources has increased the risks of conflict in the region significantly.
Socialists have a long memory and know that attempts to tackle the climate crisis will often be thwarted by the international market system and will frequently be foiled by the national ruling class appropriation of the local resources and wealth. The majority of aid organisations develop their programmes on the basis of their own priorities and their own visions and the views of locals are usually ignored. It will be the democratic empowerment of the workers by socialism that will begin to genuinely address the needs of the people of Africa .
Today, between 25-30 percent of the income that is generated in sub-Saharan Africa is from agriculture, while up to 70 percent of people rely directly on farming for their survival. Contrast this with the European Union, where farming is responsible for less than 3 percent of GDP, and creates employment, often part-time, for less than 5 percent of working people. At the same time, irrigated agriculture counts for under 6 percent of all agricultural production in Africa, compared to 30 percent in Europe and 35 percent in India.
The message is not all doom and gloom however. Africa’s agricultural sector has huge untapped potential. Under one-third of Africa’s arable farmland is cultivated, while irrigated production can be increased greatly, meaning there is enormous potential to grow much more than at present. Improved farming technologies, better access to good quality seed, reform of land laws, and the utilization of information systems including mobile phones to give farmers timely information, can all contribute greatly to the growth of Africa’s farming sector. ‘Climate smart’ farming practices will enable Africa’s small-holder farmers to grow food in a way that is sustainable, and will help them to use their natural resources wisely. A reduction in food losses due to better storage and packing, improved infrastructure, and stronger links to markets will make agriculture on the continent more productive.