UN environment agency launches initiative to help Africa adapt to impacts of climate change


From managing coastal erosion, to tackling pressures on food supply, a new initiative launched today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will aim to support communities across Africa in adapting to the impacts of climate change.

The Africa Adaptation Knowledge Network will serve as a hub for knowledge, research, successful initiatives, and collaborative partnerships on climate change adaptation. It builds on ongoing efforts around the continent to mobilize existing knowledge and provide robust solutions to the major impact of climate change on lives and livelihoods in Africa.

Disasters such as severe droughts in the Sahel in 2012 and the Horn of Africa in 2011 have brought into sharp focus the serious impacts on water, land, soil, and other resources linked to climate change on the continent, and the need to build resilience to such pressures.

Warming in Africa is projected to continue to increase by 3-4o C over the next century. This poses a serious challenge to sustainable development, particularly as the economies of most African countries depend on climate-sensitive sectors such as water, agriculture, fisheries, energy and tourism.

Yet the region lacks the capacity and resources needed to face the challenges of climate change - a problem that could have major economic consequences.

Delayed responses in adapting to climate change could result in losses of up to 20 per cent of Africa’s GDP. By contrast, immediate actions to protect against climate risks would an estimated 1% per cent of GDP.

The Africa Adaptation Knowledge Network (AAKNet) aims to support climate change adaptation in Africa by providing the following services:

  • Aggregating knowledge in addressing pertinent climatic risks and sharing information shared across regions and countries
  • Providing tailored support to countries in developing strategic planning processes for climate change adaptation
  • Building partnerships with governments, research bodies, non-governmental organizations and others, with the common purpose of supporting climate change response

To directly reach those affected by climate change, the AAKNet initiative will also conduct workshops with community organizations, farmers, and other groups, to share knowledge and practical advice.

As the case studies on the AAKNet website demonstrate, many communities across the continent are already implementing solutions. With the right financial investment and policy support, such actions can be scaled-up to other regions to help build climate resilience.

In Togo’s drier northern Savane Region, for example, where rainfall is about 500mm per annum, there is an acute shortage of water outside the short rainy season. This triggers many social and economic problems in local communities, such as the long distance trekked by the women and girls who are responsible for fetching household water. In turn, this has a direct impact on school attendance and educational achievement.

To help address this problem, UNEP in collaboration with the Togo’s Ministry of Water Resources supported the rehabilitation of two small dams for harvesting rainwater. This intervention has improved year-round water supply to local communities and reduced the physical stress experienced by women during the long dry periods. Improved water security has also expanded rural livelihood opportunities and triggered emerging entrepreneurs in market gardening, brick construction and fisheries. The dam project was a contribution to the national adaptation programme of action (NAPA) of Togo.

The Africa Adaptation Knowledge Network (AAKNet) aims to harness the valuable knowledge and experiences gained from such initiatives, and to share these with governments, regional authorities, and communities facing similar climate challenges.

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