Investing In Africa Climate Adaptation Also Aids Development

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Water gathering in Africa climate (
Water gathering in Africa climate (

The United Nations Environment Programme released a report yesterday that responds to a 2013 report on the potentially crippling costs of climate change in Africa. At an October meeting in Gabarone last year, the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment endorsed the Africa Adaptation Gap Report, which identified these costs.

The new report, titled Keeping Track of Adaptation Actions in Africa—Targeted Fiscal Stimulus Actions Making a Difference, begins:

African development and economic growth are being strangled by climate change, which poses major challenges to already fragile situations at the household, national, and regional levels.

Keeping Track is the first concise handbook of practical examples of successful low-cost adaptations from sub-Saharan Africa. It captures current and predicted impacts of Africa climate change on livelihoods, agriculture, and human and ecosystem health there. It also serves as a practical action guide.

After decades of development progress, Africa faces population doubling to 2 billion and a 20-50% decline in water availability by 2050. Agriculture is the main employer on the continent: nearly 65% of African livelihoods depend on agriculture. UN Under-Secretary-General/UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner states that droughts, flooding, and sea level rise with climate change may reduce crop yields in some areas by 15—20%. Such a scenario, unaddressed, could seriously threaten Africa’s most vulnerable states.

Steiner also notes an extra benefit of investing in adaptations to climate change in Africa:

By integrating climate change adaptation strategies in national development policies, governments can provide transitional pathways to green growth and protect and improve the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of Africans…. The KTAA report clearly demonstrates how investment in adaptation actions can… actually stimulate local economies through more efficient use of natural capital, job creation, and increased household incomes.

Impacts of Africa climate change (

The first part of the report is analytical, revealing water scarcity, agricultural production, deforestation, and energy sources and uses currently affecting and predicted to impact African livelihoods, agriculture, and human and ecosystem health. It presents impacts by region, country, and city.

The second half presents low-cost climate adaptation solutions for these purposes:

  • Improve ecosystem health,
  • Build community capacity in sustainable management,
  • Improve agricultural productivity, and
  • Store water in innovative ways.

These solutions include buffer strips, on-site water conservation, use of native species, change in cropping systems, landscape-scale management, protection of water resources, use of natural infrastructure, and incorporation of local knowledge into agro-ecological production systems.

Some examples:

  • A local aquatic ecosystems project in Togo improved access to water for human use, agriculture, and livestock by 488%
  • National legislation in Seychelles revised school building codes and enabled rainwater catchment systems
  • Forest Ecosystems Projects in Rwanda and Uganda, and an
  • Agricultural Ecosystems Project in Zambia

Renewable energy potentials in Africa (

The report also finds that harnessing renewable energy sources like geothermal and hydropower would dramatically increase industrial development and improve services such as education and medical care. They would thus lead to substantial growth despite Africa climate change. The maps below show the location and intensity of solar, wind, biomass, and hydropower potential available on the African continent.

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