Africa: Climate Change Threatens Livelihoods of More Than 100 Million Africans

According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), climate change impacts will result in higher temperatures and inconsistent rainfall patterns by 2050, causing changes in crop yields and agricultural sector development, higher food costs, decreased food availability, and increasing child malnutrition.

  • The agricultural sector in Africa plays a vital role in mitigating climate change.
  • Climate change threatens the livelihoods of more than 100 million people living in severe poverty in Africa.
  • A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the urgency for climate change mitigation.

Many African nations are currently witnessing a disturbing phenomenon. Canals, water reservoirs and rivers are drying up due to droughts and heat waves caused by climate change. Drought has ravaged many sections of the continent to an extent not seen in recent times.

As a result, millions in Sub-Saharan Africa are now critically food insecure. Insufficient rainfall in successive seasons has resulted in low crop yields and pasture. This unimaginable combination of intensely adverse events has exacerbated starvation and water scarcity, amplified by rising food prices, impeding Africa’s roadmap to providing a good quality of life to its inhabitants and limiting progress towards achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs).

According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), climate change impacts will result in higher temperatures and inconsistent rainfall patterns by 2050, causing changes in crop yields and agricultural sector development, higher food costs, decreased food availability and worsened child malnutrition.

Africa is anticipated to warm faster than other regions globally, with many parts of the continent getting reduced rain. Reduced rainfall will be especially disastrous in nations that rely significantly on rain for agricultural output. With Africa’s population growth rate, the food supply will struggle to keep up with demand.

READ MORE: Africa: Climate change effects worsen agricultural output, food security

Climate change threatens livelihoods

Climate change threatens the livelihoods of more than 100 million people living in severe poverty in Africa. Global warming is anticipated to melt Africa’s remaining glaciers over the next several decades, resulting in food insecurity, population displacement, and poverty.

The gross domestic product (GDP) of Sub-Saharan Africa could reduce by up to 3 per cent by 2050. Even without the adverse effects of climate change, global poverty is one of the most serious concerns. One in every three Africans, or more than 400 million people, is considered poor. The world’s poorest people are often hungry, have limited access to education, and experience poor health.

Agriculture remains vital to Africa’s economic growth. Thus, climate change has destabilized local markets, worsened food insecurity, slowed economic growth, and raised the risk for agricultural investment.

African agriculture is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change owing to its reliance on rainfall. The Sahel, for example, is heavily reliant on rain-fed agriculture and is plagued by droughts and floods, both of which damage crops and lower productivity.

Temperatures are predicted to rise 1.5 times faster in Africa than in other regions by the end of the century. African countries will experience shorter wet spells (causing droughts) or heavier rains (causing floods), resulting in reduced food production due to a lack of support and infrastructure systems found in wealthier nations.

Crop yields throughout the continent will fall by varying degrees depending on the region by 2030. Southern Africa, for instance, is predicted to have a 20 per cent reduction in rainfall.

Rural and urban populations bearing brunt

While rural communities in Africa remain the worst hit by climate change, they are not alone. Rural residents often shift to urban areas as a result of rural crises. According to the United Nations (UN), cities house more than half of the world’s population. Africa has the world’s fastest urbanization pace. Only 20 per cent of the population resided in cities in 1960. The present rate is more than 40 per cent, and by 2050, experts predict it will go beyond 60 per cent.

Research classifies sub-Saharan Africa as the world’s fastest urbanizing territory, with a population of 487 million in 2021, predicted to double by 2043. Climate change will only worsen urbanization and its attendant challenges. Relocation from rural to urban regions generally causes improvements in living conditions in developing nations. This is uncommon in Sub-Saharan Africa.

While urbanization has traditionally enhanced prosperity, most weather-related migrations in Africa entail relocating from rural privation to urban poverty. Slums house up to 70 per cent of Africa’s urban population. Living conditions in these places are deplorable owing to disparities in income, a lack of economic growth in cities to meet the pace of urbanization, unemployment, and limited access to services.

On the other hand, people escaping climate-affected rural regions will not be secure from climate change in metropolitan areas, which are ecologically prone to floods. Poor land use and construction material selection in certain regions trap heat and cause the urban heat island effect, resulting in intense heat waves with associated health hazards.

READ MORE: Enhancing intra-African trade will heighten economic recovery and promote food security

Prioritising climate change mitigation

A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the urgency for climate change mitigation. The continued delay could prove too late to remedy the situation, and even the best possible mitigation measures might not suffice. Leaders and policymakers must seize the opportunity to expedite efforts to confront climate change.

Considering the previous commitments from governments on the need to urgently address environmental impacts, it remains deeply worrying that the world has made minimal progress regarding the necessary actions.

It is time for stakeholders to collectively consider the urgent measures required to implement high-priority actions to contain the current situation as they deliberate on long-term implementation approaches.

The agricultural sector in Africa plays a vital role in mitigating climate change impacts. Several approaches have consequences, positive or negative, on various aspects of the environment. Therefore, investing in modern agricultural technology represents an important avenue towards tackling prevailing environmental challenges.

It is also vital to increase investment in agricultural research substantially. Africa currently has 17 per cent of the population heavily dependent on agriculture. However, Africa receives just 4 per cent of agricultural research funding from all sources, including donors and domestic government budgets. Increased research funding will lead to a better comprehension of Africa’s climate and the effects of climate change. Even if predominantly sponsored internationally, most of this research should remain an African responsibility.

Africa needs a hand to combat climate change

Africa adds a tiny proportion to global greenhouse gas emissions globally. Nevertheless, Africa suffers disproportionately from the negative climate change impacts. Heavy carbon emitters such as China and the United States have a moral responsibility to assist Africa to mitigate the impact of climate change, not just for Africa rest of the world.

The world is in a spin regarding climate change ramifications. Thus, the more abled players must reinforce the case for focused interventions across the continents. Moreover, stakeholders must demonstrate strong political will and showcase effective cooperation.

Policymakers must advocate for pooling resources to support the most affected, particularly in Africa. They can financially support and share land restoration and climate adaptation technologies. Collaborations to expand inclusion that can attain a new paradigm in climate change mitigation.

The leaders of the major polluting nations and donor countries, as well as the leaders of African nations–must commit to implementing policies, allocating resources, and taking the necessary actions to address the deteriorating climate situations globally.

READ MORE: Why Climate Change Adaptation costs Africa billions

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