Posted: Thu, May 23, 2013 | By: Lee-Roy Chetty
Observed temperature increases indicate a greater warming in Africa in recent decades.
In addition, rainfall changes exhibit even greater variation in time and space. Variability between years has increased in recent decades with more intense and widespread drought and floods. Medium to high emission scenario climate models project a warming for Africa of 3-4 degrees by 2080, but with considerable differences across the continent.
African societies have continuously developed local adaptation strategies to cope with extreme weather events, such as droughts. However, the expected regional changes in climate, and the subsequent impacts—especially on water availability, agricultural production and human health—will severely strain their coping capacity.
To build on existing know-how, while addressing the reality that many African countries cannot cope with the current impacts of climate variability, a multi-layered approach to capacity development is required.
Capacity building is inherent, in that it is an active process of “learning by doing” whereby the skills and knowledge of all participants are increased. It is also inherently a development process, in that the research involves the direct testing of adaptation solutions.
Participatory action research also weds scientific and local knowledge to assess climate-related impacts and the ability of stakeholders to cope with them, and tests and validates existing local adaptation strategies. The linkages between researchers, decision makers and communities help to ensure that the research is driven by the demands of research users, rather than the available supply of research organizations.
Capacity development needs to be seen as an ongoing process that should continue beyond the life of the various projects it funds.
Programmes must therefore aim to leave a legacy of strong African research organizations capable of contributing to the field of adaptation. To further strengthen the existing base, programmes developed must support targeted capacity building activities, including education and training workshops.
In addition, helping to increase resilience in the agricultural sector is an obvious priority, given its critical importance to both export revenue and subsistence livelihoods. Effective water resource management is critical in this context of dependency on agriculture.
Other priority areas for action are addressing the impacts of climate change on human health, coastal resources and urban development. An increasing proportion of Africa’s population is concentrating in coastal mega-cities, such as Cairo and Lagos, which have poor infrastructure for dealing with rising sea levels and extreme weather events.
Efforts at fostering partnerships in its immediate constituency in Africa and beyond will prove critical in order to embrace emerging issues and trends. Knowledge gained from these initiatives helps to inform strategic directions in the future. Partnerships with other donors, other international programs, and African researchers, policy makers, community representatives and capacity developers will be instrumental in bringing significant benefits to the poorest and most vulnerable people in Africa