Climate Change

There is more and more evidence being accumulated that demonstrates that climate change is going to affect major food producing bioregions across Africa. The 4th Assessment Report of the IPCC said that up to 50% of agricultural production could be lost by 2020. The poor will suffer most from this phenomenon although they have contributed least to the problem.

Greenhouse gas levels in our atmosphere have reached a level that will lock the world into an assumed minimum temperature rise of 2 degrees by the end of the century. In fact,  many now think we are unlikely to manage to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to avoid temperature rises of less than 4 degrees.

This warming will drive more extreme weather events, more droughts and more floods; higher maximum temperatures and greater thermal fluctuation. Boom and bust cycles, where traditional assumptions and ways of predicting weather become uncertain.

Put simply, the world is now faced with a future of severeclimate change that will destabilize food systems across the planet, and placeextreme stress on the African poor in particular.

Fortunately a wide array of adaptation measures are now emerging to help farmers adapt, although many more will still be needed. However, from a research perspective, the implications of climate change on the wider food system have yet to be as widely understood.

For example, if climate change favours larger, more consolidated modes of agribusiness (due to the ability to spread financial risk across weather regions), and large scale farms interface better with supermarkets than their smaller counterparts, then could climate change serve to support the rise of supermarkets in Africa? And if so what would this mean for the sovereignty of African food systems?

Or, when one considers the relationship between climatic stress, resource conflicts and religious tension for example, what could temperature rises of 4 degrees mean for the spread of religious extremism and violence across Africa?

(Above: Herders from the nomadic Kara Tribe with their Goats and Cattle. As conflict for grazing lands, water and other critical resources intensify across Ethiopia, Sudan and Tanzania, conflicts between stakeholders in the region is likely to intensify.  By: Jeremy Woodhouse)

(Above: A feeding centre in Mogadishu caters to refugees streaming into the city to escape the drought devastating farmland in the countryside. They would rather risk being caught in the cross fire in the capital than face starvation in the countryside. Mogadishu, Somalia - By Robin Hammond)

(Images above & top: Climate canaries: Among the first victims of climate change are the nomadic pastoralists of Northern Kenya. Of them, the very old and very young will feel it most. 

In conference rooms and in academic papers, the experts call it ‘pervasive pre-famine conditions’. In the village, squatting on his brick-sized wooden stool in the red dirt of east Africa, Lokuwam Lokitalauk calls it a death sentence. His curses ricochet round the quiet village and his glaucoma-misted eyes dart off, surveying the stick-like spectres of children drifting listlessly about.

“When I had my cows, I could afford three wives and I have 20 children”, he said. “The drought has killed my herd. All my cattle have died of thirst but I still have the wives and children, and now I can’t feed them. I should be out there with my cows grazing. “He waves ahand behind him to the crisp, cracked plains without turning his head: “But, here I am, I am weak now; I’m waiting to die." 

Images by Robin Hammond)

(Above: An unidentified man carries his belongings to safety over a flooded highway on March 1, 2000 in Tres Febrero, about 100 kmnorth of Maputo, Mozambique. The country was hit by severe floods in February-March 2000 that destroyed farmland, infrastructure and killed hundreds of people.

Mozambique has been affected by a number of subsequent flooding events since 2000, which have negatively affected hundreds of thousands. By: Pers-Anders Patterson)

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