Africa is becoming the most exposed region in the world to the impacts of climate change. In Sub-Saharan Africa extreme weather will cause dry areas to become drier and wet areas wetter; agriculture yields will suffer from crop failures; and diseases will spread to new altitudes. By 2030 it is expected that 90 million more people in Africa will be exposed to malaria, which is already the biggest killer in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Drylands, which include arid, semi-arid, and dry sub humid zones are at the core of Africa’s development challenge. They make up about 43 percent of the continent’s land surface, account for about 75 percent of the area used for agriculture, and are home to about 50 percent of the population, including a disproportionate share of the poor.
Due to complex interactions among many different factors, vulnerability in drylands is high and is rising, risking the long-term livelihood predictions for hundreds of millions of people. Climate change, which is expected to increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, exacerbates this challenge.
Most of the people living in the drylands depend on natural resource-based livelihood activities, such as herding and farming, but the capability of these activities to provide stable and adequate incomes is eroding. Rapid population growth is putting pressure on a deteriorating resource base and creating conditions under which extreme weather events, unexpected spikes in global food and fuel prices, or other exogenous shocks can easily precipitate full-blown humanitarian crises and fuel violent social conflicts.
Forced to address urgent short-term needs, many households have resorted to unsustainable practices, resulting in severe land degradation, water scarcity, and biodiversity loss. African governments and their partners in the international development community stand ready to tackle the challenges confronting drylands, but important questions remain unanswered about how the task should be undertaken. Do dryland environments contain enough resources to generate the food, jobs, and income needed to support sustainable livelihoods for a fast-growing population? If not, can injections of external resources make up the deficit? Or is the carrying capacity of drylands so limited that out-migration should be encouraged?
Increased climate variability threatens the development gains of African countries, and that these effects need to be anticipated so that development efforts can be made more resilient to climate change.
Apart from leading to adverse consequences for many development sectors in Africa, Climate change has been said to be a threat to the economies and livelihoods of many African countries. For these reasons, African countries are required to put more focus on investing in research and advisory services to develop and disseminate adaptation options, and scaling-up investments that build resiliency.
Among other things, making adaptation and climate risk management a core developmental component with a particular focus on sustainable water resources, land, and forest management, integrated coastal development, increased agricultural productivity, health problems, and conflict and migration issues should be made a climate change development agenda.
Article by Vera Shawiza.