According to the World Economic Forum, climate change represents a major challenge, as it constitutes a global risk that affects far more than only the environment. One dramatic effect is the decline in food and water security, defined by the World Bank as a "situation when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an healthy and active life." Sub-Saharan Africa is the region most prone to erratic rainfalls and increasing food shortages, due to the destruction of the maize harvest. In 2009, the UN Development Program estimated that the impacts of climate change could lead to malnutrition for another 600 million people by 2080. The Food and Agriculture Organization maintains that for each one degree Celsius rise in the average temperature, farm profits in Africa will drop by around ten percent.
Since Africa is the poorest continent in the world, with agriculture constituting the principal source of most African countries' GDP and accounting for 40 percent of the continent's foreign currency earnings, leaders of developed countries should coordinate efforts to promote climate change adaptation. One policy tool is the Copenhagen Climate Accords. In the accords, several countries declare their intentions of and commitments to cutting carbon emissions, while emphasizing their support for technology transfers and acknowledging the importance of forest systems in combating climate change.
But, what more should leaders do to fight food and water shortages in Africa? Educational development must be implemented by the least-developed countries' governments in cooperation with the UN, NGOs, CBOs, international institutions, civil society, and local communities. The aim is to educate local populations, by enhancing communication and information, about climate change and environmentally friendly farming practices, in order to avoid the burning of grassland that releases a large amount of CO2. The Food Security Early Warning System supports longer-term policy and planning work, launched by national authorities and NGOs covering basic needs, which help to develop channels for disseminating relevant and usable information directly to subject communities. Local populations are therefore expected to build an eco-friendly identity.
The main objective of the effort to facilitate research and technological development is to promote new forms of irrigation. If widely implemented, adaptation strategies in agriculture have the potential to offset negative climate change impacts and contribute to a sustainable increase in agricultural production. Farmers will no longer heavily depend on rain-fed production systems inherently susceptible to draughts and floods. Moreover, this research and technological development allows all actors to access reliable climate information to avoid adverse food security outcomes. So, both educational as well as research and technological development are correlated as they alleviate negative outcomes, by mapping and estimating levels of risk exposure.
Finally, "innovative insurances schemes and a global reinsurance fund for climate damage are likely to be needed" (UN Environment Programme). Their goal is to decrease the dependence on emergency relief and to protect local food supplies, assets, and livelihoods. For example, the Drought Insurance in Ethiopia by AXA Re achieved this goal. However, in the long term, a coalition of the willing must be created among relevant governments and insurance companies, so that risk management expands beyond consensus to alliances. Hence, insurance schemes must evolve into innovative risk financing instruments.
Due to Africa's economic situation, policies promoting food and water security and the adaptation to climate change should not be insulated from other socio-economic concerns that affect the development opportunities of poor people. A great concern here is poverty. Poverty "encompasses different dimensions of deprivation that relate to humans" (Economic Co-operation and Development Organization) hence tackling poverty needs to be considered a priority. Indeed, the first of the UN Millennium Development Goals for 2015 is to end poverty and hunger. In other words, a dual policy plan must be adopted that will simultaneously address the food and water security problem and the poverty issue.
Alexandra Dobra is reading a Bachelor in Politics and International Relations at the University of York, UK. She is the author of several articles in international peer-reviewed academic journals. She is an editor for the academic journal Politikon (IAPSS) amd redactor for the academic journal ResPublica nova (ENS), as well as chapter chairman and founder for the academic journal The Transatlantic (LSE, SIPA Columbia).
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