CLIMATE CHANGE

El Niño, La Niña spiralling Africa’s food insecurity

Africa’s shifting climate require appropriate interventions to boost the already worsening food insecurity situation

In Summary

• The State of the Climate in Africa report recasts a grim image of human health, food security and economic prospects in the face of intensified climatic conditions across the continent.

• The report strengthens the ideation of the antecedence of El Niño and La Niña in East Africa and notes that Africa’s temperatures have taken on an upward trajectory in the recent past at a pace equitable to other continents.

Over the last 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. The two events have become prevalent in the recent past. Across the Sahel, desertification has widened. The spread of pests, weeds and diseases that are affecting terrestrial and aquatic organisms in different measures has reached an all-time high. Without immediate interventions, it is not unthinkable that there will be immensurable losses in biodiversity.

Often than not, the extreme weather events of drought floods antecede each other and are caused by the emissivity of Green House Gases, mainly carbon dioxide. The onset and closure in one of these harsh weather events highly signals the commencement of the other.

Combined, the events account for an annualised loss in gross domestic product of about 10 per cent. Various lines of literature reveal the quantity of the heat-trapping gasses has increased and waterbodies warmed up affecting aquatic ecosystems; alongside other contributing factors, these developments complicate climate change management.

Almost needless to say, droughts and floods are weather’s most worrying triggers for displacements of persons, poverty, pestilence and malnutrition. Africa’s refugee burden has increased. Although additional threats that Africa faces like protects and cross boarder tensions 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 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 terror group.

Forest excision wards 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 lock horns over issues that could have been avoided, if they exploited their natural endowments with tinges of caution, understanding and consideration.

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

A new report by the World Meteorological Organisation dubbed “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 strengthens the ideation of the antecedence of El Niño and La Niña in East Africa and notes that Africa’s temperatures have taken on an upward trajectory in the recent past at a pace equitable to other continents. This is a worrying indicator, considering Africa’s minimal carbon footprint as opposed to large and industrialised country that are located outside Africa.

The report warns that Africa’s shifting climate require appropriate interventions to curb 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.

In view of the foregoing, injections to further plant and medical research are needed at a time when mosquitoes have become more mutant to ordinary insecticides. Disturbing weeds like dodder that spread diseases and entirely dependent on the host are resistant to common herbicides hurting crop yields.

Whereas there is not technical answer to the climate change challenge that Africa faces, contingent 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.

Economist at the Kenya School of Government @ResilientEagle