Friday, December 26, 2008

Climate change threatens livelihoods in Southern Africa

IPS: Climate change will affect the Zambezi River basin more severely than any other river system in the world, according to Kenneth Msibi, Water Policy and Strategy Expert for the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Increased floods, drought and increased levels of disease threaten lives and livelihoods all along the river’s length. "Frequent floods and intense droughts are becoming more frequent occurrences in our region. We need to use our existing water resources as a catalyst for development so that we don’t get overwhelmed by the effects of climate change," said Msibi.

Coordinator for the Climate Change and Adaptation in Africa project, Miriam Kalanda-Sabola, told IPS that farming communities in Malawi and Tanzania, for instance, have in the past 30 years experienced considerable negative climate change effects in both semi-arid and high rainfall areas. Throughout the basin, agriculture is mostly rain-fed, and the people of these states are facing declining agricultural productivity which is being linked to worsening poverty and increasing food insecurity.

The semi-arid areas of Tanzania have seen declining crop yields, poor livestock production, and increasing domestic animal diseases. Many communities have abandoned the production of traditional crops. But farmers in areas of high rainfall are also in difficulty. "The high rainfall areas in Tanzania are facing declining soil fertility, stunted crop growth, destruction of mature crops in the field and stored ones," said Kalanda-Sabola.

In Malawi's semi-arid areas, communities are seeing increasing periods of hunger and loss of property due to floods while droughts have reduced grazing for livestock due to droughts. Meanwhile, the high rainfall areas are experiencing soil erosion and frequent landslides, increasing incidence of malaria and loss of crops and animals due to floods….

The dried up Ruaha River in Tanzania's Ruaha National Park, shot by Paul Shaffner, Iringa, Tanzania, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

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