What are African countries already doing to adapt to climate change?

August 19, 2010

     By Duncan Green     

africa-climate-changeWhile climate change negotiators seem to be wading through metaphorical cement, national governments have no choice but to get on with adapting to current and future climate change, as far as they are able. A recent review of 10 African countries’ adaptation plans by IFPRI shows some patterns to the response. (The countries were Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda).

Only two strategies are common to all 10 countries – the development and promotion of drought-tolerant and early-maturing crop species and exploitation of new and renewable energy sources. Most countries have areas that are classifiable as arid or semi-arid, hence the need to develop drought-tolerant and early-maturing crops. Strangely, only one country recognizes the conservation of genetic resources as an important strategy although this is also potentially important for dealing renewables Africawith drought. Biomass energy resources account for more than 70 percent of total energy consumption in ASARECA member countries. To mitigate the potential adverse effects of biomass energy depletion, ASARECA countries plan to harness new and renewable energy sources, including solar power, wind power, hydro and geothermal sources, and biofuels.

Eight of the 10 countries cite the promotion of rainwater harvesting as an important adaptation strategy, either small scale with small check dams or large scale with large dam projects. Five other measures are being used by more than half the countries surveyed:
(a) the conservation and restoration of vegetative cover in degraded and mountain areas;
(b) reduction of overall livestock numbers through sale or slaughter;
(c) cross-breeding, zero-grazing, and acquisition of smaller livestock (for example, sheep or goats);
(d) adoption of traditional methods of natural forest conservation and food use; and
(e) community-based management programs for forests, rangelands, and national parks.

Interestingly, the promotion of environmentally friendly investments and Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects that can be Africa CC adaptation tablefunded through carbon trading is a feature of only one country. According to the IFPRI report, three examples of strategies that warrant greater region wide collaboration are the conservation of genetic materials, development and promotion of drought-tolerant species, and soil conservation. To date, the national adaptation policies of only three countries have indicated that they are pursuing these strategies.

See table for more details. [h/t Debbie Hillier]