by Ruth Aine - 19 September 2013
The future of the environment is one that keeps so many awake at night. In a few weeks’ time leaders will be gathering in Warsaw Poland for yet another United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to deliberate and talk about how best we can preserve, conserve, and protect the environment. The developed countries will aid the developing countries in formulating legislation on these issues.
Every time I think about climate change, I tend to personalize it. This is because the evidence that we have mistreated the earth is everywhere. While growing up, there were months that I knew it would be hot and I dreaded those, because of the dust and sweat. June, July and August also took up most of the school’s second term, but those months were also the harvest months. That is when sorghum, maize and beans were taken out from the garden in preparation for the rainy season that started in September to October to what led to the planting season. Today it rains throughout the year and shines throughout the year. Farmers have resorted to irrigation and the use of non-organic fertilizers for their crops. When it rains we are scared, because it rains a storm. Crops are washed away, landslides and mudslides have become the order of the day. That is just my story. Each one of us has a story about how life has been affected by climate change or even how they have noticed the change that has and continues to take place. We do not need to count carbon credits or be part of the campaigns that talk about reducing carbon emissions in the air we breathe, to understand that mother earth is in danger- we her citizens have not taken good care of her.
If we understand the situation, then what is the way forward? How do we help ourselves and generations to come? Is this something we even think about?
“The historical climate record for Africa shows warming of approximately 0.7°Cover most of the continent during the twentieth century; a decrease in rainfall over large portions of the Sahel (the semi-arid region south of the Sahara); and an increase in rainfall in east central Africa. Over the next century, this warming trend, and changes in precipitation patterns, is expected to continue and be accompanied by a rise in sea level and increased frequency of extreme weather events.”
One of our publications in our Environment Bibliozone by Paul V. Desanker, Impact of Climate Change on Life in Africa highlights some of the effects of Climate Change in Africa:
Most of Africa relies on rain-fed agriculture, Desanker says. As a result, it is highly vulnerable to changes in climate variability, seasonal shifts, and precipitation patterns. Any amount of warming will result in increased water stress. Roughly 70 percent of the population lives by farming, and 40 percent of all exports are agricultural products (WRI 1996). One-third of the income in Africa is generated by agriculture. Crop production and livestock husbandry account for about half of household income. The poorest members of society are those who are most dependent on agriculture for jobs and income. (Odingo 1990; FAO 1999). The figures and percentages have changed since then but the profound impact of climate change on the continent hasn’t.
Important to note as well is the issue of biodiversity. Biodiversity is an important resource for African people. Uses are consumptive (food, fiber, fuel, shelter, medicine, wildlife trade) and non-consumptive (ecosystem services and the economically important tourism industry). Given the heavy dependence on natural resources in Africa, many communities are vulnerable to the biodiversity loss that could result from climate change. The impact of climate change on humans will also be compounded by climate change-induced alterations of agriculture, water supply and disease.
Livestock, people and wildlife are all going to be affected by climate change or rather are already being affected. It is no myth, it is real: What are we doing to avert this? If you are part of any initiative to combat climate change in Africa, do share your story with us. Let us make our continent a better place.