Climate change will be “catastrophic” to health and agriculture, and could foster African instability and insecurity, Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (CCAA) scientists, environmental health and agriculture experts warned yesterday.
The group urged African state apparatus to tackle climate change, as malaria is the most climate-sensitive vector-borne disease.
Head of CCAA Fatima Danton warned that dealing with climate change would further burden the continent and have “enormous” human and economic cost. These include more frequent extreme weather events, water and food shortages, the spread of diseases, potential ecosystem collapse and threats to livelihoods.
She warned that ignoring climate change would cost lives.
“It is not enough for politicians to deal with climate change as some abstract academic concept. The price of complacency will be paid in human lives and suffering, and all will be affected. Tackling climate change can avoid this,” Danton said.
Kenya Medical Research Institute’s Andrew Githeko said climate variability could increase the number of malaria cases by 100% and mortality by 500% and the areas most affected by the epidemics were the highlands of most of Africa .
However, Githeko said an early epidemic warning system was required in the prediction and early prevention of epidemic.
He asked African leaders to focus on preventative climate change solutions to create a “cleaner, healthier and safer future for us all”.
University of Zimbabwe soil scientist Paul Mapfumo said lack of resilience in policy implementation by governments had been Africa’s “lip service catastrophe” as smallholder farmers fail to explore measures to enhance the adaptive capacity of local communities to pressures of climate change.
As a result, facing a degrading natural resource base, farmers ended up making “wrong decisions due to difficult choices” they had to make to survive.
“The food and nutrition crisis will result in failure to attain food self-sufficiency at household, community and national levels; tailored culture of dependence on aid and relief food sources; diminishing diversity of food sources and undermine livestock products and social safety nets,” Mapfumo said.
There was need to empower farmers to access input resources and participate in markets as well to integrate indigenous and conventional scientific knowledge systems.
African smallholder farmers were heavily dependent on indigenous (local) climate change indicators in their decision-making hence there was need to increase access and use of climate change information by poor or vulnerable households.
The smallholder farmers needed context-specific “climate change” information to enable decision-making.