Letters

Climate warning can boost food security

floods

Kenya's landscape, which is largely flat with scattered hills, predisposes it to many natural disasters like floods. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • Science reveals that there is a close connection between El Niño and La Niña that have become prevalent.
  • Across the Sahel, desertification has widened.
  • The spread of pests, weeds and diseases that are affecting terrestrial and aquatic organisms has reached an all-time high.
  • Without immediate interventions, there will be immensurable losses in biodiversity.

Over the past two decades, the world has generally experienced drastic weather events. In particular, these events have intensified in Africa, every subsequent year since 2000. Climate change and variability have increasingly proven to be noxious phenomena to tackle. Despite the far-reaching impacts of extreme weather events across the continent, little has been done, if the full measure of the associated recurrent effects on livelihoods and the environment is anything to go by.

Science reveals that there is a close connection between El Niño and La Niña that have become prevalent.

Across the Sahel, desertification has widened. The spread of pests, weeds and diseases that are affecting terrestrial and aquatic organisms has reached an all-time high. Without immediate interventions, there will be immensurable losses in biodiversity.

Often than not, drought and floods antecede each other and are caused by the emissivity of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide. The onset and closure in one of these harsh weather events highly signal the start of the other.

Combined, the events account for an annualised loss in gross domestic product of about 10 percent.

Various lines of literature reveal that the quantity of the heat-trapping gases has increased and waterbodies warmed up affecting aquatic ecosystems; alongside other contributing factors, these developments complicate climate change management.

Droughts and floods are weather’s most worrying triggers for displacement, poverty, pestilence and malnutrition. Africa’s refugee burden has increased. Although additional threats that Africa faces are viewed from a political and economic angle, climate change could be silent yet unseen driver of Africa’s ongoing conflicts and tensions.

In Somalia, where African Union Mission to Somalia (Amisom) soldiers are present, charcoal trade has been blamed for strengthening Al Shabaab operations. In West Africa, there is conclusive evidence to attesting that trade in timber funds Boko Haram.

Forest excision hurts favourable weather that can promote alternative and high potential agroeconomic activities. Due to this trend, studies suggest that physiological changes, which also cause climate change, are to blame for human psychological changes.

It is, therefore, not worrying that more than likely, warring communities fight over issues that could have been avoided, if they both exploited their natural endowments with caution, understanding and consideration.

Similar striking examples are many, including the decades-long legal battle on use of the Nile waters.

A new report by the World Meteorological Organisation titled The State of the Climate in Africa recasts a grim image of human health, food security and economic prospects in the face of intensified climatic conditions across the continent.

The report notes that Africa’s temperatures have been rising in the recent past at a pace equitable to other continents. This is a worrying indicator, considering Africa’s minimal carbon footprint compared to industrialised countries.

RIGHT INTERVENTIONS

The report warns that Africa’s shifting climate requires appropriate interventions to boost the already worsening food insecurity situation.

Meaningful engagements in mapping and tracking of diseases, pests and migrants is important in informing policy at the national, regional and continental level.

Disturbing weeds like dodder that spread diseases and entirely dependent on the host are resistant to common herbicides hurting crop yields.

Whereas there is no one answer to the climate change challenge that Africa faces, planning is needed, at national and regional levels.

As argued in the WMO report, leveraging on multi-hazard early warning systems could be one of the much-needed solutions.

As the Great Green Wall takes shape from Dakar through Bujumbura to Addis Ababa, a “great” solar energy project should colonise the Sahara and offer an energy alternative for mechanisation of agriculture and strengthening of the food value chain.

Obed Nyangena Economist