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Climate Change: Kenya to lose USD500 million worth of crops

Climate Change could affect coastal crops growing

A regional report on Climate Change released last week by the Working Group II of the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) disclosed that Kenya will experience losses of her coastal crops with a rise in sea levels due to climate change.

To be hard hit are mangoes , cashew nuts and coconuts , and these crop losses could be nearly Sh3.5 billion for a one meter sea-level rise.

According to Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the Nairobi-based UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), which also co-founded IPCC, the report underlines the enormous costs facing Africa as a result of unchecked climate change--costs that are wholly unacceptable.

"It is the continent with the least responsibility for the climate change and yet is perversely the continent with the most at risk if green houses gases are not cut", he adds.

The IPCC Report states "sea level rise especially on the East African Coast will increase flooding with the adaptation bill rising up to 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

It further predicts that wheat may disappear from Africa by the year 2080s with the Egyptian soya bean production dropping up to 30 percent by 2050.

"Up to 30 percent of Guinea's rice fields could be at risk from flooding by 2050. A one meter sea-level rise would cost Eritrea an estimated USD250 million as a result of the submergence of infrastructure in the port city of Massawa,’’ It adds.

This fourth Assessment Report underlines growing scientific confidence in the climate models, not least in the realm of malaria where it is estimated that an additional 80 million people would be at risk.

The report says, the modest temperature rise could lead to falls in water flows in some river systems equal in volume to one large dam being lost annually.

The report points out that continued increase in greenhouse gases will later in this century put up to 1.8 billion people in Africa at risk of water stress. It further indicates that climate change is likely to aggravate water scarcity with the precise numbers of people at risk dependent on factors including population growth.

The IPCC Report which underlines risks to Africa’s agriculture, infrastructure and wildlife further points out that tourism, much of which is based on nature is also likely to be slapped hard with 25 - 40 percent of animal species in the national parks in Sub-Sahara Africa especially Zebra set to become endangered.

The report further points out that arid and semi-arid lands are likely to increase up to 8 percent with important ramifications for livelihoods.

Thus Africa, says the IPCC report, requires urgent assistance to adapt to climate change and action by industrialized countries to deliver deep cuts in emissions if the continent and its people are to survive the next century. Poverty eradication and meeting and maintaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by African nations will be a pipe dream.

Although much of Southern and Central Africa will become unsuitable for malaria transmission, the report says, malaria will become a familiar disease in densely populated areas in most of African countries among them Zimbabwe.

Releasing the report last week at a Nairobi hotel, the United Nations Environmental Programme executive director Achim Steiner said African countries were likely to suffer major catastrophes among them increased flooding, diseases and low agricultural productivity because they were not taking matters of climatic changes seriously.

The report acknowledges that uncertainties in models and future governance make it tough to know how flows in the Nile will be affected.

It further says 1.8 billion of temperature centigrade will rise by 2018 adding that there will be extreme and frequent tropical storms especially in the Southern Indian Ocean.

The director who was flanked by the Senior Programme Officer of an international lobby group Climate Change Adaptation, Antony Nyong said although falls in frost in alphine zones like those in and around Kenyan mountains may make it possible to grow more temperate crops among them apples, peas and berry, cocoanuts and palm oil, such crops will be at risk.

He said there was need for countries to incorporate indigenous knowledge of whether forecasting and other areas to solve the problem of food insecurity and climatic changes adding that African governments should think about disaster reduction not management.

Noting that African countries were not taking matters of climate as a domestic responsibility, Achim observed that because of failing to forecast problems brought up by climatic changes, Kenya spent a whooping Sh450 million to solve the Rift Valley Fever disease which if proper strategies were put in place, only Sh45 million would be spent.

The report notes that sometime between 2080 and the end of the century, average anal rainfall is very likely to decrease alone Africa’s Mediterranean Coast by a fifty with the fall also experienced in the Northern Sahara and the Northern West African Coast.

Declines are also forecast for much of Southern Africa with the extreme West of the region likely to experience falls of as much as 40 percent through June and August.

In contrast, tropical and Eastern Africa may experience increased rainfall of seven percent.

It recommends that a suite option may assist Africa to cope with climate change with some research indicating that these could be cost effective. It says Sea level rise in Coastal countries may cost up to 14 percent of GDP adding that adaptation may cost African countries less-between five to ten percent of the GDP.

The report says adaptation to and coping with climate change is complex and will improve a rage of social and economic factors including education and literacy as well as creative financial and technical solutions including a better understanding and application of indigenous knowledge and traditional coping strategies.

In Sudan for instance, the report says, women are directly responsible for electing sorghum seeds for planting adding that the same women will select a variety of seeds with different characteristics that ensure resistance to a variety of conditions that may emerge in the next growing season.

In semi-arid areas, the report recommends that rain water harvesting can play a role as an irrigation and drinking water source noting that improved early warning systems may improve health care planning.

In terms of malaria which in semi-arid areas is linked with excessive rainfall "it may be possible to give outlooks with lead times of between two to six months", says the report.

In Agriculture, the report says other factors could be investigated to ‘ enhance resilience to shocks such as droughts which include national grain reserves, grain future markets, weather insurance, cash transfers and school feeding programmes among others,’

"The problems facing Africa as a result of unchecked climate change were enormous costs that are wholly unacceptable for the 800 million people alive today and for the generations to come. Africa is the continent with the least responsibility for climate change and yet is perversely the continent at much risk if green house gases are not cut', Achim observed.

He said there was need for the general public to hold their leaders among them MPs accountable for failing to implement strategies that may help them in climate change adaptation.

Published: 2007-04-16

About the author or the publisher
Am a science journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya. I hold a post-grad diploma in journalism with a background in range management

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