Climate Change in Africa

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A few years ago I was engaged in a project to find out how much aid is channeled to Africa for the sole purpose of climate change projects. The research was slow and along the way we learnt that as is typical with aid money it was difficult to track, often mislabeled and unfortunately misused. I spent last week in South Africa where the issue of climate change came up again in a conversation and for the first time I recognized the desperation that Africa is facing with the issue of climate change.

The world has been warming up. It is now generally agreed that human activity is one of the major contributors to this rise in global temperatures. When the world warms up this it means that the seasons are altered all around the world. Some people have colder winters and warmer summers. Rainy seasons turn into flood seasons and the likelihood of tsunamis and tornadoes increase.

So what does the warming-up of the world have to do with Africa? I used to think that the initiatives which pushed Africa to invest in climate were ploys to detract from the focus of solving the basic problems of humanity; food, shelter and clothing. However, climate change is very closely intertwined with the provision of basic needs. One of the alarming turn of events in Africa is food insecurity. One of the main causes of food insecurity is drastic weather changes which have rendered farmers unable to harvest sufficient food. An example is in Bloemfontein, South Africa where rain has been scarce. As a result, harvests of corn, grapes and lentils have been low. The immediate result is that there is a short supply of the particular goods. However, for the farmer the implications are far more reaching. Many large scale farmers and medium scale farmers take out loans based on the profit that they will get from their harvest. The finicky weather is making it more difficult for banks to finance farmers and at the same time leaving farmers with huge debts which if multiplied on a large scale may drag economies into inflation.

Last year the famine at the horn of Africa was drew the attention of the world. While many reasons were cited for the drought famine and lack of food reserves, climate change was also cited as a major contributor. In Kenya, one of the main worries is that the rainy and dry seasons no longer fall at the expected time. In addition, farmers who wait until the rain falls in order to plant find that they are too late or it is a false rainy season that cannot sustain the planting season.

My mother, who farms groundnuts and cassava on a small scale has several times expressed disappointment with the rain. When the rains fall it is later than normal and it is either torrential or too little which does not help with growing of the plants. Last year, my mom’s groundnut seeds were completely burnt by the sun, as the rainy season was too short and quickly succeeded by a scorching-sun dry season which could not sustain germination of the plants. All this is to say that climate change does affect our provision of basic needs and therefore all other solutions we have to providing food, shelter and clothing in Africa must incorporate mitigates for climate change or else they will be quickly rendered unsustainable.

Two weeks ago, the Kenyan army embarked on a project of plant a million trees. Initiatives such as these ensure that in future, human activity will have a positive rather than a negative impact on climate change. Apart from reforestation, exposing the youth to the effects of climate change has had positive effects and inspired innovation. By 2020, it is predicted that the tallest mountain in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro may no longer have any ice or snow. Lake Naivasha and Nakuru in Kenya have shrinked in size during my lifetime, mostly because of overuse by humans and encroachment of human beings into these habitats. However, because of these drastic effects, it has been easy to convince governments to become better stewards of the ecology and to invest more into programs which will ensure a better tomorrow for the next generation.

Climate change affects our daily lives. The economic downturn of Western Nations especially in Europe has resulted in loss of focus on its effects and sadly also loss of funding of many climate change projects. However, as soon as we remember how much all our other initiatives to improve the economy of Africa is interlinked with climate change, then we will be back on the right track. What have you done to reverse the effects of human beings on our ecology and climate?

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