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Strategies for Adopting to Climate Change in Rural Sub-Saharan Africa: Targeting the Most Vulnerable In Southern Africa
22 November 2010
Jonathan Makau Nzuma


Climate change represents the medium and long-term changes in average weather patterns. It is the result of both external forces and human activity. The major external forces that influence climate change include such processes as variations in solar radiation, deviations in the earth's orbit, and variations in the level of Green House Gas (GHG) concentrations, which lead to changes in the global mean temperature and the amount of precipitation. In contrast human activities including use of fossil fuels, land use changes and waste management are the major sources of GHG emissions. Most climate change evidence is inferred from changes in key climate indicators, including vegetation, ice cores, dendrochronology, sea level change and glacial geology.

Climate change represents one of the greatest environmental, social and economic threats facing the planet today. In the developing countries, climate change will have a significant impact on the livelihoods and living conditions of the poor. In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), climate change is a major threat to sustainable development and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is expected to affect food and water resources that are critical for livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where much of the population, especially the poor rely on local supply systems that are sensitive to climate variation. Thus, Climate Change would have a profound effect on food security in SSA, as increasing temperatures and shifting rain patterns reduce access to food across the continent.

The major impacts of climate change in SSA include a shifting of the rainfall patterns, floods and draughts, increased disease infections and resurgence of new one, rising sea levels and a reduction in biodiversity. In general, much of the impacts of climate change on agriculture is predicted to be through a reduction in the length of the growing period. However, in a few isolated areas such as the highlands of Kenya and Ethiopia, the impacts of climate change have included increased precipitation and lengthened growing periods. Overall, ensuring food security will require substantial investments and actions to adopt agriculture, forestry and fisheries to climate change challenges. Given the limited available resources in SSA, adaptation strategies must be targeted to the most vulnerable populations and must also equip those unable to adapt-generally the poorest with tools and incentives that will allow them to undertake adaptation.

This report profiles the available climate change-related data sets, as well as details about their accessibility and procurement in the 14 FANRPAN member countries. In addition, the report assesses climate change adaptation strategies proposed for implementation in the Southern Africa region and presents the position of the 14 countries in the current UNFCC negotiations. The study was conducted by a desktop review of the climate change adaptation policies as specified in the policy documents of all the 14 FANRPAN member countries, namely: Angola, Botswana, DR Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The positions of the 14 FANRPAN member countries in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) vary considerably. On the one hand, eight of the 14 FANRPAN member countries (Angola, DR Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia) are least developing countries. According to Article 4 of the UNFCCC convention, the LDC's are required to submit National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) to the UNFCCC. All the LDC except one (Angola) of the LDCs under FANRPAN's mandate have submitted their NAPA's to the UNFCCC. On the other hand 6 of the 14 FANRPAN member countries (Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe) are developing countries that are not required to submit NAPA's to the UNFCCC. Under the UNFCCC framework, these countries do not commit to undertake any mitigation actions but are voluntarily supposed to notify the convention on their climate change mitigation actions. All the developing countries in southern Africa with the exception of Namibia have submitted first communications specifying the mitigation strategies they intent to take to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions.

Overall, all countries have specified climate change adaptation strategies targeting sectors in agriculture and livestock, water, natural resources, energy and public health. The most popular climate change adaptation strategies proposed across the 14 countries are; promotion of early maturing/draught resistant crop varieties, investment in early warning and disaster prevention systems, conservation agriculture, investment in animal disease surveillance systems, use of renewable energy sources, promotion of agroforestry, investment in irrigation and water harvesting technologies, protection of coastal marine resources and the use of traditional methods of forest management.

In addition to the climate change adaptation strategies, most countries in southern Africa are implementing adaptation research projects. Moreover the African Group's position paper stipulates the mitigation strategies to be adopted, as well as the means of implementing these measures. However, it is not clear whether countries in southern African are implementing the adaptation strategies stipulated in their policy documents. Thus, there is need for both financial and technically support to enable southern Africa member countries implement climate change adaptation strategies specified in their policy documents.

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