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Climate change: Africa must prepare for the drought caused by El Nino

28.10.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Among some of the impending disasters leaving African leaders scratching their heads is the stunning reality of climate change and its spill over effects. The continent has been facing frequent droughts, devastating floods, cyclones, and record breaking heatwaves among other debilitating weather patterns which the poor continent is unprepared for. What makes the situation dire is the fact that all this is happening to a continent that already has other marauding big elephants in the room. Among them a poor financial base, political maladministration, a dwindling resource base against an exponentially increasing population, high unemployment rate, primitive farming methods that cannot sustain the high demand for food to name just a few.

Africa has been regarded as the bread basket of the world as it is naturally favoured with vast fertile arable land, conducive temperatures and proper rainfall patterns that support farming. However, there has been drastic changes against the known status quo. The past twenty years have seen an increase in cases of severe drought below normal rainfall. Countries like Zimbabwe that usually receive rainfall that is normal to above normal have not been spared. The el-nino induced drought is a serious threat to farming which is Africa’s major source of food. The effects of drought do not only affect food production but the whole agrarian economy which contributes a greater proportion of the continents GDP. A lot of other rural families depend upon farming not only for food but as their major source of income. Thus, the recurrent pattern of droughts is a big blow to them. The flourishing of Africa’s fauna and flora is largely dependent upon receiving optimum rainfall. The el-nino induced drought threatens many other parts of the food chain. In the month of October, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife reported that 55 elephants died due to lack of water! Imagine such stunning statistics which also threaten tourism, one of Zimbabwe’s major foreign currency earners!

Africa is increasingly becoming prone to flooding. Areas that have not been associated with floods are becoming victims to this dreadful natural disaster. Floods damage crops, wildlife and many other strategic infrastructures that requires millions of US dollars to set up. Central and Sub-Saharan Africa is constantly being bombarded by this natural disaster. Besides floods, another more catastrophic evil making inroads to Africa are cyclones. The SADC countries of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe were hit by Cyclone Idai whose terrible effects they are yet to recover. The cyclone left a trail of destruction with some whole villages being completely swept away leaving no survivors. More than 1000 lives were lost in the process. The towns of Lilongwe, Beira, Chipinge and Chimanimani were the worst affected. Millions if not billions of United States dollars will be required to replace the damaged infrastructure. With such natural disasters being frequent visitors to a continent already rocked by a plethora of several man-made challenges, one can only shed tires over the beloved continent. Some call it Africa, to them it’s just a continent that forms part of the earth but to Africans it is home and when home is on fire truly it evokes their grief and sympathy.

A close study of the 33 elninos that occurred from 1901 to 2017 was done. The research concluded that since the late 1970s, there has been a westward shift by thousands of miles in where the Pacific Ocean El nino is originating and peaking in intensity. This an effect of boosting chances of super strong el nino events going forward.

The same study when on to say climate change is disproportionately warming the waters of the Western Tropical Pacific Ocean compared to the Central Pacific. This is influencing trade winds to blow more strongly from cooler to warmer waters. The research advised that 11 elninos that have occurred since 1978 have helped to push global temperatures to record levels wreaking havoc at a large scale. The study went on to say ‘super elninos can vault global temperatures to new heights, killing coral reefs worldwide and flooding parts of Africa and Asia while starving other parts of the globe of moisture.

The summer season is drawing nigh in most parts of Central and Southern Africa. But the farmers largely peasant and subsistent are clueless on whether they should use their few savings to buy agricultural inputs and gamble against the tricky rainfall pattern that has been obtaining. But besides farming to survive, they have nothing else to do.  Formal employment is a serious challenge with the high unemployment rate generally on the increase in Africa, besides, if they get the jobs the paltry wages will be nothing better than a mockery as most of the rural folks are not skilled to get meaningful jobs. The ripple effects of climate change are far and wide. It threatens people’s source of livelihood, both the fauna and flora ecosystem suffers shear survival stress, availability of both drinking and irrigation water is threatened, hydro generated electricity fails as dam level are reduced among many unsustainable evils.

Many theories have labelled Africa as ‘a dark continent, the home of primitive and backward people still to undergo certain phases of evolution’. The increasing rate of natural disasters will see Africa’s hopes of escaping the debilitating ruthless jaws of poverty vanishing like morning dew in dazzling summer sunshine. How can the poor people brace for such eventualities? The politicians have displayed much ignorance over basic issues like democracy and rule of law. How can they be smart enough to foresee the urgent need get the continent orchestrating resources towards fighting the reality of climate change and its undesirable subsequent effects? Who can heal the daft leaders of Africa to stop their needless power struggles and set their priorities right? Who outside of the continent’s careless political governments is willing to champion the noble cause of developing sustainable food securing systems?

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo Credit : google image/illustration

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