How Africa is learning To Beat The Drought And Traverse Climate Change
There is urgency around climate change. This has never been more evident that in the case of the African continent, that is now seeing a crippling drought like condition that repeats itself year after year.
Apart from that, the climatic conditions have made food shortage a living reality for the Horn of Africa comprising Somalia, Ethiopia and northern Kenya. According to environmentalist, while reversing the climatic condition would be ideal, reinventing the traditional systems of irrigation could prove to be a better temporary solution.
Other reasons for food shortage have been attributed to ongoing conditions of civil war in other parts of Africa like South Sudan, northeastern part of Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to a list put together by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization of famine hit nations across the world, of the 41 listed, half of them comprise African countries itself. Many of these are hit by food shortage due to reasons that are not climate related. Of those affected by drought related food shortage are in need of international food assistance. These include nations like Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
Africa is suffering from the unique problem of both scarcity of rain and sudden cloud burst occurrences. In both cases, crop is destroyed and is leading to situations where farmers are being forced to sell assets to make ends meet. This is not a long term solution to the problem.
While traditional farming knowledge has kept in mind prolonged natural drought like conditions, the sudden change in climatic condition that is leading to cloud bursts or even longer periods of water shortage, has to be tackled. The water interdependent crop like sorghum and millet has suddenly no takers.
Global demand and shifting sensibilities wants more maize. And then, traditional farming methods are losing its charm leading to situations where farmers don’t know how to sell their crop or shift to suddenly growing something more profitable. Maize requires a stronger water supply.
According to William G. Moseley, a professor of geography and director of the Program for Food, Agriculture & Society at Macalester College, climate change adaptation is the need of the hour. Apart from going back and learning from traditional irrigational methods, it will also involve ‘trying out completely new approaches. Take for example the semi-arid country of Botswana that has been successfully experimenting with backyard gardens over the past eight years. It has been a grand success for them. It worked well when the government encouraged small-scale vegetable production in a water-scarce environment with the use of shade nets to conserve the water that would have otherwise been lost to evaporation. This initiative also involved efficient drip irrigation and rain barrels to collect rooftop water following rain events.’
There is also news that collaboration between the University of Botswana and Durham University is experimenting with the use of check dams. These are small dams that are built across waterways to reduce water flow and soil erosion — to help recharge aquifers and improve access to water for livelihood activities such as gardening. These are just some of the many innovative approaches that could eventually be scaled up in order to improve climate change adaptation.