Almost 70 per cent of the funds committed by developed countries to finance climate action in Africa are tied to conditional loans and credit lines
US$50 billion a year. That’s the kind of money Africa requires to survive the onslaught of extreme weather events, diseases and loss of livelihood sources in case the global temperature rise does not exceed 2°C, says the World Bank’s Africa Climate Business Plan. The amount will rise to a humongous US $200 billion if global warming continues unabated over the next few decades. But just the way world leaders show no commitment to contain the temperature rise, there is no commitment as to who will bear the cost. This is worrying as the continent accounts for just 9 per cent of the global carbon emissions (including emissions from land-use changes), according to non-profit World Resources Institute. But it will be hit the hardest as almost 80 per cent of the population directly depends on natural resources. “The funding needs to address climate change effectively, in particular for adaptation, are high in the region, and will increase as climate change unfolds in the coming years,” warns the Bank.
Such predictions have rattled African leaders, who frequently voice the urgency for climate adaptation and mitigation at domestic, regional and international forums. Adaptation means measures that make people and governments resilient to climatic vagaries. This includes everything from diversifying agriculture to developing early warning systems for natural disasters. Mitigation measures, such as switching to cleaner sources of energy, are the other half of climate action. So far, 63 per cent of African countries have estimated their needs for adaptation financing in their Nationally Determined Contributions, compared with 27 per cent in the rest of the world. Yet, financing adaptation measures remains grossly inadequate for Africa; as of now, just $3 billion a year has been made available to the continent.
First, almost 70 per cent of the funds committed by developed countries to finance climate action are tied to conditional loans and credit lines. Besides, several countries are yet to link the risk factors to climate change. For instance, Ghana, despite enough research showing climate change has pushed incidence of water- and air-borne diseases, has failed to link the 2012 National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy with its National Health Policy of 2007, and there are no projects to address the health risks due to climate change.
As a result, several African countries are trying to be self-reliant in climate change adaptation. The continent is already spending more than its fair share for climate adaptation, says a 2017 UNDP-Africa report. Public expenditure on adaptation by African countries constitutes 20 per cent of their total needs presently, which is significantly higher than the adaptation resource flow from international sources. “Although the level of investment as a proportion of GDP expenditure varies among countries, it ranges between 2-9 per cent of GDP, and represents more than other forms of expenditure in public services such as healthcare and education,” says the report. South Africa plans to introduce a carbon tax bill to meet its adaptation and mitigation commitments, while Kenya has developed a fund to accelerate adaptation in priority areas (see ‘Cost to survive climate change’). The voices for self-reliance in climate finance are not new, but for the first time, there seems to be some collective motion beyond the voice.
Kenya: Community digs farm ponds, stores rain
Under the blazing sun, small farmers of Nakuru, a semi-arid village some 150 km from Nairobi, are harvesting bumper crops unperturbed by the fact that the monsoon has eluded them in recent years. Patrick Ndung’u, who has harvested bulb onions and potatoes from his 5-acre (a little over 1 hectare) land, is neatly packing the produce in sacks for traders to collect from his farm. On an average he earns Sh4,000($40) a week by selling vegetables, which he grows on a rotational basis. Just three years ago, when parts of Kenya, including Nakuru, were hit by a severe drought, Ndung’u was among the worst affected. “I had planted Irish potatoes and the entire crop got nearly burned. But it taught me a lesson,” he points out.
After the incident, Ndung’u divided farms in the village into 40 small plots of 0.5 ha each and grew a variety of crops. He formed a self-help group along with other small farmers, and together, they dug small ponds, of 400,000 litre capacity, in all farms in the village. “Hiring labourers is too expensive for us. So we did all the work ourselves,” says Kariuki Wachira, another farmer. “It took us a week to dig a pond in every homestead. But the challenge was nothing compared to what we face during droughts,” he says. The ponds, then lined with an ultra-heat treated polythene sheet to prevent percolation, were then used to store harvested rainwater. To minimise wastage, farmers acquired drip irrigation kits that directly feed water to the crop roots. Tillage was kept to the bare minimum so that soil retains moisture for long. The farmers are also shunning traditional water-guzzling crops like maize and growing drought-tolerant crops. Ndung’u says he grows red and white bulb onions that require watering only twice a week.
In Makueni, part of the arid Eastern Kenya, farmers are innovating to survive against all odds. “I use a chisel-shaped plough, known as spring plough, which digs deep into the soil beyond the hard pan. This increases rainwater infiltration into deeper layers,” says Peter Ndabi of Makueni.
Kenya’s current per capita water availability is less than 600 litres per day, which is below the global threshold of 1,000 litres, making it one of the chronically water-scarce nations. But a study by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the UN Environmental Programme shows that Kenya’s rainwater potential is above 350 trillion litres, which means farmers can benefit from investing in rainwater harvesting. Victor Gitonga, a water engineer at Netherlands Development Agency-Kenya, says farmers can increase their productivity by at least 20 per cent by increasing water storage and use of technologies, such as lined ponds, drip-irrigation kits and solar- powered water pumps.
Micheni Ntiba, former permanent secretary with the ministry of agriculture, says a combination of right technologies such as water harvesting, hybrid seeds, timely planting, crop diversification and post-harvest management will help farmers adapt to climate change impacts.
Malawi: Climate smart farming gets popular
Land is a valuable possession around Blantyre, the commercial capital of Malawi. Grace Manda owns 1 ha of farmland here but has lived most part of her life complaining about acute poverty. She lives in a mud house and struggles to arrange food, clothes and school fees for her three children. “The region hardly receives any rain, which has made the soil hardy and barren. Even if I take up cultivation, the land cannot grow enough for us,” she would say. But that was some 10 years ago.
In 2009, Manda attended a meeting on conser- vation agriculture organised by the National Small- holder Farmers Association, and since then her life has changed for the better. Now she grows crops twice a year. She is not only able to afford her children’s school fees but also has built a better house and is taking care of her mother. Due to her farming prowess, she now gets invited to training programmes on promoting farming as business, climate smart agriculture and market exploration, and in the process has become a role model to most women farmers in the country.
“All I did was practise conservation agricul ture,” Manda adds. This new method of farming promoted by the TerrAfrica Sustainable Land and Water Management partnership, popularly known by its acronym CA, is “a concept for resource-saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment”. The Food and Agri cultural Organization (FAO) has determined three key principles for CA: minimum mechanical soil disturbance or no-tillage; managing top soil to create a permanent organic soil cover; and crop rotation with more than two species.
The simultaneous application of the three principles help boost yields. With regards to climate change, CA advocates building and storage of soil organic matter, which is important for seque stration of carbon in soil. Carbon is derived from the atmospheric CO2 taken up by the plant and added to the organic matter when the plant dies. In a world concerned with the buildup of atmospheric greenhouses gases (GHG), CA presents an opportunity for reversing the GHG buildup, says a 2009 FAO report titled, “Scaling up conservation agriculture in Africa: strategy and approaches”.
The practice is not limited to Malawi. At a recent CAADP Africa Forum, a platform of excha nge for people working in agriculture, held in Johannesburg in South Africa, various speakers backed CA as key to sustain agriculture in Africa.
South Africa: Industries take the lead
As the impact of drought continues to unfold, water shortage is compelling industries to innovate to stay in business. Globally, South Africa is the 30th driest country, and climate change is going to hit it hard. This became evident recently when Cape Town, the country’s second-most populous metropolis, was in the throes of recurrent droughts, with the severity of water scarcity peaking by the year. The message that water shortage is the new normal hit home, and prompted both the industry and communities to act.
Ian Neilson, the city’s executive deputy mayor, says Capetonians are now using less water for daily needs and recycling grey water. The city authority has also diversified its supply system by sourcing water from groundwater, desalinated plants and recycling units. This changing culture is also influe ncing the business community. In June 2017, the city proposed water reduction measures after clouds failed to precipitate and analysts said that the city would run dry in weeks. Responding to the situation, Calgro M3, a real estate company, scaled down the develop ments of its 1,750 residential units.
“While the water shortages have presented hurdles and have delayed our projects in the Western Cape, they have not come to a complete standstill and where possible we are completing dry work on our developments,” says Wikus Lategan, chief executive officer of Calgro M3, adding that the company recoups the 8,500 litres of water used to build each housing unit in three months by various initiatives including rainwater harvesting. “Rain harvesting is the easiest way to gather ‘free’ water and to conserve water usage in the construction phase,” he says. “Unfortunately for this to be successful we do need rain in the Western Cape.”
Located in the water-scarce region of Epping, industrial suburb of Cape Town, pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is reaping the rewards of water conservation measures. It demonstrated a 42 per cent reduction in water usage from 2010 to 2016, a figure that has reduced by another 8.04 per cent in the past two years. “The success can be attributed to GSK’s water reduction targets for all factories in water-scarce regions of the world. This encourages constant improvements in our ways of working with water,” says Brighton Ochieng, Cape Town site director, adding that GSK has a team dedicated to reduce water footprint of the factories. In fact, Ochieng says, their site plans for 2018 include the recovery of certain wastewater streams for treatment and re-use. A large cooling tower will be decommissioned and a rainwater harvesting and treatment system will be installed. “The site is targeting a 20 per cent water reduction in 2018 and a further reduction of 20 per cent in 2019,” he says.
Industries are hesitant to invest in water efficiency improvements just based on the resource cost as often pay backs are not there, says Kevin Cilliers, senior project manager at National Cleaner Production Centre in KwaZulu Natal, a division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. “However, we have seen a shift in thinking. Some organisations are now looking at investment payback more from a risk perspective of not having water at all and not being able to operate,” he adds.
Uganda: FAO steps in
At the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference, dubbed COP21, the Uganda government committed to reduce carbon emissions by 22 per cent in a bid to transit to a low-carbon climate resilient economy. Today, the country has both adaptation and mitigation strategies in place as part of its climate change policy. As part of the mitigation strategy, the country plans to improve its forest cover, which has declined from 35 per cent to 15 per cent of the land surface between 1890 and 2005, with an estimated annual forest cover loss of approximately 88,000 ha a year. Recently, Mary Goretti Kitutu, the state minister for environment, presidential directive to give out tree seedlings to all Uganda’s legislators for planting in their constituencies.
The plan is to bring some 400 ha under green cover, with a focus on Sango bay areas in central Uganda which have been affected severely, Kitutu adds. Since firewood harvesting and charcoal production have been major drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in Uganda, the government is also promoting renewable energy. The government estimates that Uganda would need $2.9 billion to implement mitigation strategies, which involve increasing renewable electricity generation by 3,200 MW by 2030 and improving forest cover by 21 per cent and wetland coverage by 12 per cent.
At the same time, Uganda’s climate change policy has laid out strategies to make communities resilient to climate change. Consider the semi-nomadic herders of Karamoja. The community believes that their god, Akuj, had given them all the cattle in their known world. To them, cattle are royalty and the number of cattle one owns measure the value and recognition of an individual. And they would go the extra mile to find new pastures and water spots for their cattle in this arid region of Uganda. But dry spells and erratic weather have further pushed them to the brink. Lokonoia is one such Karamojong who lives in Laboktom village of Amudat district. Till a few years ago, he was notorious for causing road-side ambushes using AK rifle ammunition and killing people to raid cattle. Today, he is a farmer.
Surrounded by dry grassland, his lush green sugarcane field appears like a mirage in the desert. He irrigates the farm using solar-powered pump. On part of the farm, he grows vegetables, such as amaranth, cowpea, cabbage, onion and tomato, using drip irrigation. Along with the other farmers, he sells the produce in a ready-market in Kenya, across the border. “We sell the vegetable as a group and the money goes to the village saving scheme where the profit gets shared among the residents by the end of the year. This helps us in paying our children’s school fees,” says Lokonoia. Such income from farming was not heard of in the region till about eight years ago when FAO set up farmer field schools to change the community’s mindset and help them market their produce.
“The dry, harsh weather is not new to us. But we are glad that development partners have drilled water facilities for us. Previously we couldn’t grow anything as we would rely on rainwater which is so scarce,” narrates Lokonoia. Animals are also kept at water collection points. He has also been able to purchase solar power system which he uses for lighting his house. “I can now avoid bush fires which are so rampant in Karamoja during the dry season,” he says.
Zambia: Finds solace in renewable
“Climate change affects not only the environment but also agriculture, energy generation and infrastr ucture development among several other sectors, and hence the prioritisation of interventions,” says Alexander Chiteme, Zambia’s Minister of National Development and Planning. Chiteme’s views are particularly true for his country, where agriculture is primarily rain-fed and 84.5 per cent of the electricity is generated through hydropower plants that are rain-dependent. In 2016, acute water shortage had hit its power plants.
“The average load-shedding is eight hours a day and out power imports have increased by 178.26 per cent,” says Chiteme. The country is now investing in renewable energy both on and off-grid. This, it believes, will also improve rural electrification which currently stands at just 4 per cent. “We are taking measures to invest in renewable energy sources and enhance our technology to invest in agricultural production that can circumvent climate change variabilities, however, the rate at which we are being affected by climate change is faster than our capacity to cope,” he adds.
The country has started a project to help farmers switch to drought-resistant crops and reduce their vulnerability due to climate change, he says. The government says a resilient agriculture sector will contribute to food security and job creation. Agriculture and electricity generation are now the priority sectors under the Seventh National Development Plan, which utilises the Green Climate Fund. In 2008, Zambia became one of the first three African countries whose climate adaptation plans was funded by the Climate Investment Fund, the world’s oldest and largest global climate finance mechanism.
(This article was first published in the 16-31 May issue of Down To Earth under the headline 'Fighting a lonely battle')
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.