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

August 19, 2010
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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]


  1. This feels pretty positive – even better if the 3 other IFPRI strategies can be pursued as well. It’s not surprising tho’ that so little finance is coming from external sources – the CDM isn’t fit for purpose (for Africa anyway), and I read there are currently 38 different channels for countries to access climate finance, and procedures to get those resources can take up to 4 years!.

    Hopefully then, what IFPRI has identified signals also a genuine internal shift by African governments to invest in agriculture (as they promised to do in 2003 – 10% of national budgetary resources). Malawi indicates what can happen when farmers get access to seeds and fertilisers.

    Maybe the best overall policies that govts can introduce are for social protection – “assurance policies”. Without those the burden of risks associated with adapting to climate change e.g. trying new crops, will stick with already burdened households. I saw recent interviews by oxfam in Hararghe, Ethiopia, where people said that soil and water conservation activities undertaken as part of the Productive Safety Net Programme had had very poisitive results e.g. spring regeneration.

  2. CDM is often considered a mitigation issue (as opposed to adaptation), as it incentivizes investments in energy efficiency and renewables. This may be why some countries, and the IFPRI report itself, doesnt highlight CDM policies/strategies

  3. ep – you’re right about the CDM, thanks for correcting me. But the basic problem I was saying about still holds – 90% of CDM projects are in Asia and Latin America, only 2.5% in Africa and less than 1% in sub-Saharan Africa.

  4. I am not sure whether that is going to work well. Why not Africa’s adaptation strategy focuses on transforming economic dependency to less climate sensitive sectors and import grain from countries that will have higher yield due to climate change?

    A side point: I wonder if “exploitation of new and renewable energy sources” is adaptation strategy rather than mitigation, especially given renewable energy has proven to be far expensive relative the dirty sources, at least so far.

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