Africa’s vulnerability to climate change: investment, research needed to mitigate shocks

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Africa is increasingly facing multiple stresses that will be magnified by climate change leading to a complex set of problems, participants at the ongoing 10th edition of the African Economic Conference in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, heard on Tuesday.

In particular, governments across the continent face a daunting challenge of addressing the poverty and inequality amid high levels of poverty, aggravated by land degradation and desertification, especially in arid and semi-arid areas; resource-based conflicts; migration and rapid urbanization.

Moreover, governments are facing greater challenges in attempting to provide inhabitants with a good quality of life in their chosen settlement areas.

This was raised during a breakout session titled “Environmental and Human Settlements: Impacts of poverty and inequality in Africa”, where different academic papers were presented to the participants.

In his paper titled “Climatic Shocks and Food Security: The role of Foreign Aid”, Kinda Somlanare Romuald argued that foreign aid significantly dampens the effects of climatic shocks on food security.  

“It appears that the marginal effect of aid is high for countries that are more vulnerable to food price shocks. When countries exhibit a high level of vulnerability to food price shocks, aid has a strong dampening effect on the impact of climate shocks on food security,” Romuald said.

He further underscored the need for implementation of effective mitigation strategies of risks. In line with this, he argued, it is imperative to promote measures that enhance the food production systems in the developing countries in order to increase their capacity to withstand the rainfall instability.

“International community could help developing countries to invest in agricultural research, extension and methods for reducing food production losses related to climate variability,” Romuald said.

Given the large uncertainties about the future rainfall patterns in many developing countries, he argued that careful considerations should be given to major investments in infrastructure to support irrigation and water resources development in order to limit the effects of a reduction in food production.

“Foreign aid could be at the heart of this process,” he said.

In his presentation titled “Building resilience to climate-related shocks: Farmers’ vulnerability to climate shocks in the Niger basin of Benin”, Boris Odilon Kounagbe Lokonon underscored that social capital is very important in building the resilience of farm-based livelihood systems as farmers rely on it when they lack the other kinds of capital.

In addition, the vulnerability of farm-based livelihoods depends also on the nature of climate shocks. The most important climate shocks affecting vulnerability are heat waves, droughts and erratic rainfalls.

However, forecasts suggest that vulnerability to climate shocks will increase, in the absence of adaptation.

“Building resilience of farm-based livelihood systems to climate shocks should be through each of the three components of vulnerability, by taking into account the specific adaptation potentialities of the agro-ecological zones,” Lokonon said.