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Africa has been short-changed by climate change

Africa has been short-changed by climate change, according to African Development Bank (AfDB) President Akinwumi Adesina.

“But, it should not be short-changed by climate finance,” said Adesina. He was speaking at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, a symposium focusing on technology, solutions and job creation opportunities in Africa's agricultural sector.

Themed "Africa and Yokohama, Sharing Passion for the Future", the conference took place between 28-30 August 2019 in the Japanese city.

Climate change has frustrated Africa’s efforts at ending hunger, with extreme weather events affecting the continent’s food security. The cumulative impact of droughts and floods on the region’s agricultural sector has increased Southern Africa's food insecure population by a further 10 million people since 2015.

NASA computer models used satellite data to forecast the drought in southern Africa. Image: Trent L. Schindler/NASA

Adesina said despite major gains in agriculture, particularly improving the volume of food production, the world is not winning the war on hunger.

"We must all arise collectively and end global hunger. To do that, we must end hunger in Africa. Hunger diminishes our humanity,” he said.

According to the State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability in Southern Africa report released in mid-2019, recent extreme weather events in Mozambique and Namibia pose an increased risk to water systems.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) reports that while the western parts of Southern Africa experienced a very poor rainy season in early 2019, eastern half has borne the brunt of heavy precipitation and flooding from recent cyclonic activity.

This means households will deplete food stocks earlier than normal. “In some areas the number of households engaging in these activities is below average, reducing food and incomes [sic] sources,” the FEWS NET update, released on August 21, said.

According to FEWS NET, carryover stocks from last year’s bumper harvest in South Africa provided a slight cushion for maize supplies. This has kept grain prices near or slightly above the five-year average across the region.

Despite this reprieve, however, household incomes will still be lower than expected.

“Between September and December, typical income activities will likely be limited as better-off households who normally provide such opportunities were equally affected by the 2018/19 drought and Tropical Cyclones.”

AfDB’s Feed Africa: Strategy for Agricultural Transformation in Africa, 2016-2025 expects climate-induced fluctuations in temperature and rainfall to have a long-term impact for Africa’s farmers.

These are expected to lower major African staple crop yields by 8%–22% in 2050.

Satellite images already paint a picture of a continent whose temperatures are predicted to rise - at least for the next decade. Researchers are reaching what the overall trend is, despite periods of short-term global cooling.

Global temperatures will climb from the dip between 2016 and 2018

Some relief for the drought-stricken southern Africa region is expected after the signing of the $24.7 million AfDB deal that will extend support Zimbabwe’s post-cyclone Idai recovery.

The country’s Chimanimani and Chipinge regions have a combined population of over 434,000, and are reportedly the hardest hit by the recent drought. While the bulk of the money will come for AfDB’s Transitional Support Facility, the Zimbabwean government is expected to provide an additional $3.2 million for the recovery effort.

Adesina has also called for the better management of natural resources.

"Let's be better asset managers for nature. For while we must eat today, so must future generations coming after us. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that we do not leave empty plates on the table for generations to come," he said.

Adesina believes technology will bring the necessary transformation to the continent’s agriculture sector. "Without transforming agriculture you cannot envisage development," he said.

The Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation program launched by AfdB in September 2018, has produced over 27,000 tons of seeds of water efficient maize seeds. These were planted by 1.6 maize farmers. "TAAT has become a game changer, and is already delivering impressive results,” Adesina said.

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