Climate change threat to Africa

Adaptation a priority

4 May 2010, Rome - Climate change can significantly reverse the progress towards poverty reduction and food security in Africa, according to a paper presented to the FAO regional Conference for Africa being held in Luanda, Angola this week.

The main consequence of higher temperatures and more unpredictable weather was a likely reduction in crop yields – 6.9 percent in the case of maize, an important staple – and a heightened risk of food insecurity.

The paper, “Climate Change Implications for Food Security and Natural Resources Management in Africa,” warned that business as usual was no longer an option and urged African governments to “prioritize and implement measures to develop agriculture and sustainable natural resource management”.

One-third of the African population lives in drought-prone areas. Six of the ten largest cities in Africa are located on the coast. These are both areas susceptible to climate change.

Climate change will affect poorer African countries disproportionately. The poorest people in those countries will suffer the greatest consequences. The African subsistence farmer is among the most vulnerable. Those least able to cope will be hit the hardest.

Local foods

Adaptation to climate change through sustainable practices, including the promotion and protection of traditional and local foods and agricultural knowledge should be a priority, the paper said. 

Since climate change would affect the poorest, development policies targetting vulnerable groups, particularly women, were needed. The work-load on women would increase as a result of impacts on water and land resources. 

There was also an urgent need to promote and build capacity for FAO’s Sustainable Land Management (SLM) initiative in Africa. This uses know-how to mitigate the impacts of climate change by integrating land, water, biodiversity and environmental management.

Carbon markets

There was also increasing potential, the paper noted, for African countries to benefit from carbon and international market instruments such as the Clean Development Mechanism. Strategies to reduce carbon emissions through community afforestation and reforestation projects had the potential to create synergies for increased smallholder food production.  

The five-day meeting will, among other issues, consider the effects of high food prices on African food security and the challenges and opportunities for biofuels production in African countries.

Photo: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
Climate change in Africa will affect the poorest countries and people.