Thursday, October 3, 2013

Africa’s demography, environment, security challenges entwined

Donald Borenstein in New Security Beat: Sub-Saharan Africa is not only the fastest growing region of the world demographically but is also one of the most vulnerable to climate changes, according to many measures, and already facing natural resource scarcity in many areas. These factors combine with existing development challenges to create security threats that African governments and the United States should be concerned with, says ECSP Director Roger-Mark De Souza in a presentation for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies’ introductory course on demography and the environment at the National Defense University.

Climate change and natural resource management are core factors in many of the security and health concerns that have afflicted the sub-Saharan region, says De Souza. As such, addressing them will aid in mitigating some of the further health and human crises in the region that have contributed to instability, failed states, and human migration.

“We’ve really moved from environmental issues as ones we typically talk about in terms of…those who are just concerned about conservation [to] recognizing the centrality of natural resource management and what it means,” De Souza notes. In a 2012 study conducted by De Souza and colleagues at Population Action International (PAI), he says they found “a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa are projected to continue to grow, while at the same time agricultural production is declining.” “Food production per capita has been stagnant from 1960 to 2005,” he says, with projections indicating this agricultural recession will continue (supplementary studies found here).

“We worked with a number of climate modelers that came up with indicators for climate resilience on a national level, and overlaid these with population dynamics,” De Souza says. “We discovered that most of the countries in Africa are not very resilient to climate change…the ones that are the least resilient are the ones that are also experiencing rapid population growth.” Rapid population growth is driven by high unmet need for family planning along with low literacy rates and a lack of access to adequate medical care....

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