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Climate change to wreck havoc in Sub-Saharan Africa

The long term disastrous impacts of climate change will not manifest themselves in the form of sanctions or neo-colonialism, but in severe water scarcities that will eventually trigger conflicts especially in Sub-Saharan Africa

The long term disastrous impacts of climate change will not manifest themselves in the form of sanctions or neo-colonialism, but in severe water scarcities that will eventually trigger conflicts especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

These civil conflicts will have a negative bearing on the livelihoods of the inhabitants of this region. Erratic and negative changes in rainfall patterns with their telling effects, currently unfolding as we speak, will unsettle the already desperate communities of the Sub-Saharan region, especially.

These effects will contribute to human insecurity as a result of climate change and the regions over reliance on rainfall for subsistence farming. The civil unrest is not going to be interparty strife but water politics. Climate related research define this kind of civil war as, “development in reverse”. It means that, all the gains that the Sub-Saharan region might have realised are going to be in danger of being eroded by this man-made scourge.

Lately, governments around the Sub-Saharan region have been deliberately trying to down-play the pending effects of climate induced water scarcities. This significant oversight and lip-service in mentioning the brewing water scarcities threatening to tear, especially, the Sub-Saharan region apart is a ticking time bomb ready to explode and can be ignored at our own peril. Water reservoirs and sources are fast dwindling by day while we are busy watching and marveling at running water going to waste. As the over exploitation of natural resources gathers momentum, there shall be criss-crossing of people migrating internally or across borders seeking grazing and arable land, as well as fresh water sources for survival. People are going to fight brutal wars in attempts to have a significant footprint in grazing and arable land.

climate change

These climate induced water scarcities shall have a more telling effect on the Sub-Saharan region than on any other continent, as a result of massive levels poverty, ill-preparedness to deal with disasters, corruption, poor governance and intricate bureaucratic bungling. As such there must be long term planning on this issue and responsible governments should seriously invest in water development. It should not be so gloomy in Sub-Saharan Africa if these governments direct all their energies to water sustainability. Of course, temperate and fertile climates will witness less upheavals and conflicts as they can endure more. But significant investments into water-harvesting techniques need to be tried and will leave even the smallest household sustainable in terms of water security.

The other worrying issue is that while we would expect the Sub-Saharan African countries to invest heavily in water development, the truth and an open secret is that the countries are poor and heavily in debt. They indeed need help, external aid of course, but some are already basket cases embroiled in toxic politics and they cannot attract any form of meaningful investment. They can only attract the Mickey Mouse type of investment and that insignificant form of investment, if by the slightest opportunity happens to come by, will be celebrated for the whole year. Discourses like mega-deals or mega investments will rule the headlines of these opportunistic newspapers. Even the unfortunate investors will be celebrated like the second coming of Jesus Christ. For that reason, to expect such countries to think seriously about future water supplies will be a joke of the century.

What lacks in the Sub Saharan region are the technically based innovations for water conservation, climate change adaptation and mitigation for sustainable development. With the greedy and destructive exploration for minerals, indiscriminately taking place in many African countries resulting in deforestation and land degradation, chances are quite high that these countries will experience more climate induced severe water stresses. Rivers are already silted and dry; wetlands have been decimated beyond redemption, while the reduction in forest cover has already exposed the earth surfaces of the respective countries. More transpiration and evaporation is taking place at an alarming speed leaving these lands crusty and thirsty increasing the vulnerability status of the inhabitants.

The severe economic shocks that Africa is going to experience will catch it off-balance thereby brewing conflicts of various magnitudes. Industries that rely heavily on water uses will be closed leading to unemployment and an increase in criminal activities. African countries are over-dependent on agriculture and that is the area that is going to be hit the hardest by climate induced water shortages. The Sub-Saharan countries remain as fragile as ever due to the lack of any meaningful growth, insecurity and authoritarianism as well being under-resourced to combat the effects of climate change. Sub-Saharan governments just make noise about climate change but are on record by investing less if not nothing in climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Climate funds and climate research do not exist in these countries and have been overtaken by issues of national interests that have developed into nauseating and unsustainable talk shows leading to nowhere. If the funds are there, they are thin and insignificant to contribute to any meaningful development. And any meaningful development can never be realised if the static animal called Zinwa is in place. Already the country is desperate, thirsty and poorly water resourced under Zinwa and any sane person cannot expect Zinwa to take us to the promised land of water sustainability.

●Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on: [email protected]