Belynda Petrie, CEO OneWorld group
Climate change threatens Africa’s water and food security: the changes in climate will impact on social and political stability of most African countries. The countries in the Southern Africa region are predominantly agriculture based countries and this means that they heavily depend on the climate.
Most communities in Southern Africa have structured their agricultural cycles based on the climate and the recent change in climate in the region is causing food insecurities in the region. If rainfall varies so too does agricultural output and in times of drought many Southern African communities cannot support themselves agriculturally hence causing economically and political instability in the respective countries.
What often happens in the region is that climate change is creating a situation where we do not have water at the right place and at the right time. For example excessive rainfall especially in the Mozambique and Namibia area is threatening food security because too much water at the wrong time of the year is not good for agricultural produce. The extremes of long drought periods and short rainfall periods are also a sign of climate change and these changes are causing water scarcity.
Major rivers such as the Limpopo which supplies South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are already considered closed river basins because there is no left over space to allocate water resources out of those basins. The allocation is already taken up by livelihood and commercial agriculture through irrigation schemes. So besides there being an unstable climatic environment there is also an eminent shortage of water in the region.
Economic and investment challenges
On an economic and investment level, climate change is affecting the SADC region drastically. No investors are willing to invest in water related projects especially if there is water uncertainty in the region. There has also been a strong correlation between economic growth and good climatic conditions. In Malawi for instance, the GDP over the last 4 years has been high and so has the rainfall, showing that there is a high correlation between amount of rainfall and economic growth.
Because agriculture is so important for most Southern African countries, a decrease in rainfall will also affect these countries economically because their exports decrease. Most Southern African countries do not process their own raw materials so a decrease in exports means that their trade margins are affected because they will have to import more than they export.
However, some positive investment has been noticed in the region as a shifted towards investing in technology that can curb the climate change problems. Most countries are opting to allow investments in irrigation schemes and water storage technologies that allow for back up during drought periods.
Although most governments and institutions believe that climate change is a long term problem, some governments in the region are realizing the impacts of climate change on their economies. Zambia for instance is trying to integrate climate change issues into their policy making decisions. Zambia is currently working on its sixth national growth and development plan and they have asked the Regional Climate Change Programme (RCCP) to help them mainstream climate change into their growth and development plan.
The role of RCCP
The RCCP’s main goal is to look at resilience in the region, focusing on the ability to withstand climate change damages. The programme also tackles issues of acclimation by trying to see how local and inherent knowledge can be used to tackle climate change issues.
The RCCP also works with various stakeholders in the region to develop a strong voice in the international climate and funding negotiations. The RCCP also aims to ensure that there is an equitable flow of climate financing into the region. The funding has to match the extent of climate problems in the region bearing in mind that this region is one of the most vulnerable to climate change in the world.
The programme also tries to generate locally relevant funds so as to conduct scientifically relevant analysis of climate situations in the region which can aid the international body of climate science in understanding the actual impacts of climate change in the region. The programme also aims to help governments in the region analyzing the on going climate change negotiations and what the implications are for the Southern Africa region.
Climate change adaptation
Part of efforts of climate change adaptation is to learn about how people in the region have been working to overcome issues of drought and flooding and then use those findings to generate a concrete adaptation plan. The SADC region has been at the end of climate variability for a long time and people have been finding ways to adapt to those conditions.
Another way to adapt is to look into alternative crops which are drought resistant and not so heavily dependent on climate conditions. For example looking for an alternative to maize which is not drought resistant will be a good starting point in climate change adaptation. Southern African communities should also start looking into small scale water storage facilities that will enable the storage of water during periods of drought.