MAPUTO, Mozambique (IPS) – Across Africa, farmers have noted the effects of climate change, including rising temperatures and unpredictable rainfall patterns; but the explanations of these processes and what can be done about it has largely passed them by.
Though by no means the leading cause of global warming, rural communities are partially responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases through deforestation, slash and burn farming and other activities. FANRPAN director of communications Francis Hale says “they feel the pinch, but at the same time, cannot explain the processes.”
Stephen Muchiri of the Eastern Africa Farmers’ Federation agrees that farmers unwittingly contribute to climate change, due to what he terms bad politics and poor environmental management on the part of government.
Muchiri expressed regret that communicating information about climate change to farmers has been neglected, pointing out that the common African position on climate change now being developed by governments ahead of negotiation of a new climate change treaty in Copenhagen in December, has been proceeding without grassroots consultation: his organisation, for example, was not aware that a unified African proposal was being developed.
Frank Kayula, of PANOS Zambia, says comments like these point to a missing link between rural communities and public debate over climate change, in which poor media coverage plays an important role.
More effective communication with rural people is needed. “We need to educate, sensitise and even entertain them; mobilising them into action,” says Kayula, who adds that communication strategies must be reshaped and rendered more inclusive. Greater advantage ought to be taken of community radio – the most accessible medium in rural areas.
Mithika Mwenda, programme officer for climate change at the All-Africa Conference of Churches goes even further: “Communities have no capacity for adaptation. That is why we are pressing on governments to integrate climate change into national policies and poverty programmes.”