Sunday, August 30, 2009

African deltas suffer early impacts of climate change

Etiosa Uyigue in People and The Niger Delta in Nigeria, is home to about a quarter of the country’s population. But climate change and rising sea levels are bringing floods and salt water into this fertile region, reports Etiosa Uyigue.

Between 1960 and 1970, a mean sea level rise of 0.462m was recorded along the Nigerian coast (largely due to local coastal subsidence or sinking). Flooding of low-lying areas in the Niger Delta region has already been observed, and with further impacts from climate change, problems with floods and intrusion of sea-water into freshwater sources and ecosystems are bound to increase.

This is expected to destabilize mangrove systems and affect agriculture, fisheries and livelihoods in general. Experts say the Niger Delta could lose over 15,000 km2 of land by the year 2100 with a one metre rise in sea level, while at least 80 per cent of the people of the Niger Delta would be displaced.

At the same time, Nigeria has seen a decline in rainfall since the beginning of the 1960s. Farmers can no longer predict the rain and know precisely when to plant their crops. Farmers usually begin cultivation at the end of the dry season, when the rain begins to fall. They plant their crops after the first or second rain in the month of March or April.

After the first rain, rain falls periodically until the months of June/July (the peak of the rainy season). Rainfall within the period before the peak is needed for the optimum performance of many crops. Because of changes in the rainfall pattern, however, farmers who plant after the first or second rain, experience huge losses when rains are delayed beyond the usual, due to climatic changes….

The Niger Delta from the Space Shuttle, NASA

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