Catching Farmers Young…

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For Africa and Nigeria in particular there is the looming threat of food insecurity. Arable lands are dwindling, climate change is taking a toll on agricultural practices,the farming population is aging and going extinct, famine is ravaging the Horn of Africa. This should be of urgent concern to all stakeholders and getting young persons to invest in or practice agriculture is a way of translating the threats to opportunities.

Agriculture is not exactly attractive. Drudgery occasioned by crude methods, low profitability of agricultural products, difficulty in accessing agro-markets among others are factors conspiring to discourage young people from Agriculture. Besides among young people including me, there is the wide-spreading mentality of “making it big” and practicing agriculture rarely guarantees that…only with telescopic sights could one see the money-spinning potential. In spite of these glaring challenges, I think young persons can still be steered to develop interest in agriculture. One effective means of doing that is making the subject Agricultural Science as practical as possible in secondary schools.

In secondary schools all over Nigeria students offer Agricultural Science for six years as part of the curriculum but much of this is geared towards theory – memorizing the concepts and duplicating them in exams. This in my opinion barely encourages the practice of the subject. I recall in my first year in high school as part of our Agricultural Science activities we were divided into groups and asked to provide seeds, plant them on allotted pieces of land, weed the farm and even do the harvesting of our plants for our consumption. So we had a small school farm for the class and my group planted groundnuts. Although at that age I was already a practicing farmer those practical sessions further cemented my interest in agriculture. That farm for me was like a personal investment – one to be treated with utmost diligence. Participating in those agricultural activities were simply exciting to most of the students in my group. Off the record though, when it came to the harvesting we were not invited, I guess the Agricultural Science teacher and his family did that at night. Even though I felt gypped of the expected harvest, the experience was still an empowering one.

Only recently during my youth service some students came to the staff room with various vegetables. So much so that you would think the Agricultural Science teacher had taken to petty trading of the leaves. The vegetables were from the class farm, cultivated by students. Well, this particular teacher was not like mine, she merely took a fraction and let whoever wanted to share in the harvest take a share, including the students. I thought that was a nice approach to learn Agricultural Science – practice the parts that are feasible rather than merely feed students with notes upon notes.

Students who participated in nurturing the class farm above are bound to appreciate the subject more and even become stakeholders in agriculture whether they decide to study agriculture as a discipline or not. Letting them partake in the “fruits of their labor” is also a means to encourage students to grow into practicing agriculturalists.

Many Nigerian schools can inculcate the approach of building a school farm, no matter how small, a nursery even. Let students practice the concepts of harrowing, ploughing, tilling, planting, weeding, manure production and application, harvesting and most importantly “reaping the fruits of their labor”. Some schools can as well afford to have a small poultry farm and have student groups take turns to tend to the birds. The cost of such a class project can easily be shared by the students in a particular group.

There is no doubt that farming is not exactly that “sexy” job most young people want to practice. And most people will only read agriculture when they have been denied Veterinary Medicine or some other “sexy” course choice. But in truth, we really don’t have to read Animal Production or Crop Production to engage in agriculture. Sometimes all we need is to see the opportunities and the needs and invest our resources in the field. For Africa and Nigeria the food insecurity threat is just enough incentive to seize the opportunities of a largely untapped sector. Making Agricultural Science truly engaging in a practical way at the secondary school level is an effective way of catching the needed farmers young.

For my sins I do Penance

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I am still locked up in this sanctuary
Doing propitiation for my sins
Two eggs and all those several work hours
I had exterminated in a fit

Two months only was I away
And two birds had taken over my home
They built their nest on a wire
One of my clothes, their foundation
And without my consent
They had laid two eggs
Wanting to raise kids before me!

But curiosity overtook good judgment
Without much care I made for the nest
In obeisance to gravity the eggs came down
Crashing and spilling a fertile yoke.

I still don’t know why I felt that way
Was it akin to murder? I mean it’s just an egg
Should I cry over spilt milk then?
I shoved the shells and nest in a bin.

Next day the doves came to my balcony
Tweeting without regard, searching.
With cockiness; they had not lost their way
Yet the nest was not in sight.

In that moment I felt their grief
They seemed to mourn for a dead kid
In their hearts they must curse me
For being such a cruel being.

And every other hour they came again
Perhaps hoping to find the nest resurrect
With each visit their confidence grew
In my house, yet I seemed to intrude

In my head I was certain anew
They would come to grips like humans do
And move on…

Two days later the doves still came
With new twigs in every visit
Determined to rebuild that stolen nest
And defile me, with such spirit.

But I don’t fight them anymore
For their forgiveness I do penance indoors.

ACCESSING PROFITABLE MARKETS WITH THE USE OF ICTS: MAMA’S STORY

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Ogeneago is a small village in Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue State, Nigeria. The village is blessed with palm trees, crowding most compounds, leaving just enough space for the living quarters. The palm trees are simply the most economic crops in the village, they defile the harsh weather and soil conditions. Our women use the palm kernels from the trees to produce palm oil. This is what Mama does mainly: palm oil production from the numerous palm trees on our family lands in Ogeneago.

Mama is a widow. She is the wife of one of my father’s late uncles. In this part of Africa a woman old enough to be your mother was simply called Mama – mother. So for the purpose of this article, ‘Mama’ will do.

Mama does not know how to read or write a word but can speak pidgin to a fair extent. So Mama is not your ideal person to use ICTs but she has a phone with which she calls her children in the cities. Lucy, her eldest grand-daughter who schools in the village and stays at home with Mama helps her with the controls. When the palm kernels are red-ripe, Mama gets a young boy to cut them from the trees. She then sets about her oil-making. Mama is a subsistence farmer whose major source of livelihood is the palm oil she makes from the numerous palm trees on our family lands. If she could make the most from the palm oil wouldn’t it be nice?

MAMA’S ICTs USE: ESOKO MARKET INFORMATION SYSTEM
Knowing the potential of the internet in solving the challenge of accessing profitable markets I began to investigate the internet for opportunities through which farmers could improve access to markets and my quest produced results that for Mama have been ‘life changing’. An inventory of farmer ICT tools used all over Africa led me to Esoko Market Information Service tool that particularly suited Mama’s business.

Esoko Networks in Ghana, a private company owns and operates Esoko which started as Tradenet in 2005. Esoko is a technology-based market information system (MIS). Through Esoko farming stakeholders have access to a multi-currency, multi-commodity, multi-market MIS developed to provide information on who has what to sell and where . The MIS utilizes the internet (at http://www.esoko.com) as well as mobile channels through its mobile application (Esoko mobi). With subscription at an annual fee of US$36 farmers have access to services like mobile alerts on prices and offers on pre-selected markets. This information is however also made available on the website (www.esoko.com) free of charge.

Esoko provided the opportunity for Mama to access markets in Nigeria. Esoko seemed more suited to Mama’s needs, especially as information could be assessed through its mobile platform downloaded on Mama’s phone. Esoko provides regular market information like offers for commodities as well as prices on the internet and through its mobile phone platform. If Mama could access these profitable markets directly it would improve her earnings. She needed to know the prices of her oil elsewhere to inform her decisions – with Esoko she had that information.

Using Esoko
The good thing for us was that Mama did not need to surf the internet, she did not need to read the information – all she needed was the information. I had to find a way to let Mama access the information on Esoko. I could access the information on the internet for free by merely logging on to http://www.esoko.com but I would not be with Mama all the time to transmit such information. This is what we did. In the city where I live, Mama’s 17 year old son lived with us. My Cousin Friday just finished high school, and he is on the internet on his mobile phone almost all the time. Lucy, Mama’s educated grandchild that lived with her could read and write – we had found our solution. We established a mini-network: a Dave (city and internet compliant) – Lucy (village and literate) – Mama (village and illiterate) network and it worked!

In close collaboration with Dave I opened a personal account on Esoko.com where we could create a profile, select markets and commodities of interest. On this profile I chose Palm Oil, and markets in some states close-by considering that irrespective of how profitable a market in Kano is, it would not exactly be a wise decision to let Mama travel 8 hours to Kano in the name of making some extra profits. So Dave surfs online, checks prices for the markets of interest and makes a list of prices which would be communicated via text messages to Mama’s phone; Lucy interprets for Mama and Mama’s makes a profitable market decision.

Esoko also offers mobile alerts which individuals and farmer organizations could subscribe to. Through these alerts, buy and sell notifications of pre-selected communities are sent to the mobile phone of the subscriber. The service is offered for US36/year for individuals and other charges for organizations for varied packages. However we could request for prices on the Esoko mobile application on Mama’s phone and immediately a message from Esoko would be sent to the phone for a charge of N15 (US$ 0.097). This did not require the annual subscription of US$36 – we took this path! Thus on Mama’s java-enabled phone the Esoko Mobile Application (mobi) was downloaded from m.esoko.com. On the application are the controls ‘offers’, ‘prices’ and ‘settings’.
The first time the mobile application was used to request palm oil prices an automatic response came with codes like:
POIL (NGA/LT, WHS/RTL)
IGBU = 232/300
LAWA = 200/200
OBAM = 177/240
YAKM = 235/240

Lucy who lived with Mama had these codes and could easily tell that OBAM meant Oba Market in Benin, Edo State, POIL = Palm Oil, NGA/LT = cost in Naira/litre, WHS/RTL = wholesale price/retail price. Thus OBAM = 177/240 meant the Price of palm oil in Oba Market, Benin City, Nigeria is wholesale: N177, retail: N240.

Mama’s first experiment with Esoko was using the Esoko mobile application on her phone to request the price of palm oil. From the interpretation of the sms by Lucy her grand-daughter Mama realized that palm oil commanded a much higher price in a Market at Nasarawa, three hours away than what she sold it for in the village. Comparing prices of palm oil in other close markets also helped Mama make important decisions on the most profitable markets to sell her product, considering transportation and other incidentals.

At the moment Mama has not subscribed for the Esoko sms automatic alerts but she is content with having her son Dave access price and offer information on the internet and send to her for free. Considering that palm oil is an essential commodity with ready buyers at any market, getting price information on nearby markets through the mobile platform that cost US$ 0.097 per sms is as well sufficient for Mama’s purposes.

Africa and Climate Change – 4: Gender Sensitive Policies

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Considering the disproportionate way climate change affect women and the need to actively involve women in mitigation and adaptation strategies, climate change policies need to be gender sensitive. Through the formulation of gender sensitive policies that should also involve women in their formulation climate change impact on women can be greatly reduced. Such policies should include:
• African governments at all levels developing a gender strategy, promoting women representation in government and decision-making institutions and investing in gender-specific climate change research.
• The adoption of principles of gender equity and equality in research, formulation and implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.
• Governments creating forums such as seminars and conferences where women, especially at the rural levels would deliberate on climate change mitigation and adaptation and also have experts improve their capacities. These seminars can also involve clarion calls by women against gender inequality that worsens climate change impacts.
• Researching on gender aspects of mitigation and adaptation, women’s and men’s capacities to cope with climate change and gender related patterns of vulnerability and how to improve resilience of women.
• In the face of climate change consequences improve agriculture through irrigation systems to reduce dependence on rain fed water sources, provide drought resistant seed and livestock species as well as improve research on more efficient energy sources to reduce the stress on biomass which women usually use for domestic fuel generation as well reduce the workload of fuel wood gathering on women.
• Governments structuring poverty interventions like provision of soft loans to favour women who are worst hit by poverty.
• Promulgating and enforcing legislation to improve the rights of women and guarantee access of women to factors of production like land.

Climate change is a real danger for people all over the world. With rising temperature, our planet is experience changing weather patterns that leave decreasing rainfalls, increasing droughts, rising sea levels with flooding risks, spread of diseases to previously safe zones among others. These have grave consequences on agriculture and food security, health, conflicts due to stress on depleting resources, water management and biodiversity. These consequences are however disproportionately felt as women, owing to vulnerabilities like discrimination and gendered roles bear the larger chunk of climate change impacts.

It is thus important to integrate gender consideration in our efforts at mitigation and adaptation. For effectiveness, this will involve for most African communities, the formation of a climate change focus group that would be responsible for awareness creation, policy advocacy, instigating local good governance as well as improving gender equality at the community level. African women can also use the Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa as a tool to improve gender equality and improve their adaptation and mitigation potentials.

Africa and Climate Change – 3: Positioning African Women for Adaptation and Mitigation

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Many Africans, especially in rural areas and particularly women are not even aware of the concept of climate change. To make African women active stakeholders in the climate change debate, we need to create ample awareness especially in rural areas where discrimination, poverty and other social and economic factors conspire to make women the worst victims of climate change. I am recommending a community based model, which can be implemented at rural and basic community levels to start a climate-change-aware generation of women and also engage women actively in measures on mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Formation of Climate Change Focus Group
Awareness creation can be a really difficult task in African communities and thus creative strategies need to be adopted. The most effective strategies for awareness creation are models that involve community members actively in the process of information creation and dissemination. Rural communities would need to form a climate change focus group which should comprise mainly women, young girls and young boys. With the aid of an NGO and other international development stakeholders in the field of climate change, this focus group can be adequately empowered to spread the climate change message. Focus groups in rural communities can meet once every weekend to debate on climate change, where members would take turns to enlighten the group on research done with respect to climate change. This will be effective as every member is active and deliberations can be held in local languages.

Through the focus groups, experiences of women arising from climate change effects with respect to agricultural production, water management, and energy generation among others can be clearly x-rayed. The relationship between climate change and the daily activities of these rural women can be adequately captured and communicated to local people through an experienced teacher. Women need to first be aware that when they burn wood, they are contributing to global CO2 emissions and when rainfall declines and affect their agriculture, it could be a result of a warming climate. Women can only become partners in the climate change debate and gender considerations with respect to climate change can only produce results when the women themselves are adequately informed on climate change.

Another strategy the focus group can adopt is to infiltrate local meetings and do presentations on climate change, showing the roles individuals play and the consequences of climate change on the overall life pattern of communities. Focus groups are also better positioned to educate students in schools with respect to climate change as a culture of starting early will save us the embarrassment of having children go up to grade 11 without knowing a thing about climate change.

Promoting Gender Equality to Mitigate Climate Change Impacts on Women
The idea of having young boys in the climate change focus groups is to show them clearly what gender inequality and discrimination against women portends for the future generation. These boys, being active players in the climate change focus group will grow up to become less gender bias and their involvement would make convincing of the male folks in communities less cumbersome. The focus group, now an effective part of the local civil society can advocate at the local government level for the protection of women rights and promotion of gender equality. Through this advocacy local governments can improve on provision of basic healthcare, provision of cleaner water sources, improving fuel consumption patterns and special interventions to improve the agricultural endeavors of rural women.

In the past, government healthcare interventions have involved the distribution of mosquito nets to pregnant women. Such strategies can be given a climate change face, with distribution of nets aligned with the mitigation of climate change impacts on women to effectively foster awareness creation.

The Focus Group as an Agent of Community Development
Since climate change has huge implications for sustainable development, and governments are responsible for ensuring development of communities, the climate change focus group can become more engaged as a tool to hold government accountable and proffer policies and programs to local governments with respect to development, especially as they concern impacts of climate change. Improvement in agricultural practices for instance can be done with this group through direct collaboration with local governments, collecting government interventions like fertilizers, pesticides and modern seed inputs on behalf of vulnerable farming groups, especially women.

The use of ICTs can be integrated into the activities of rural women, via the platform of the climate change focus groups for information creation, dissemination and collection. This will involve the provision of basic ICT facilities like two computers with internet connection using the services of mobile telecoms providers. Through this, there can be direct communication between women farming groups and government agricultural extension service agencies to translate viable agricultural information to women farmers. Information on disease and drought warning signs, drought resistant species and also available agricultural markets will help improve rural women productivity, translating to economic empowerment and reduced vulnerabilities with respect to climate change impacts.

Empowering Women to Improve Mitigation and Adaptation
Women can play active roles in climate change mitigation and adaptation if they are adequately empowered. The first stage of empowerment being awareness creation on climate change and its consequences having being achieved through the machinery of the focus groups, women can then be involved in developing better energy consumption strategies to reduce their contributions to global CO2 emissions. Developing cleaner fuel sources would involve collaboration between the governments, private organizations and women themselves who are end users as their contributions towards designing such fuel sources would be invaluable considering their traditional knowledge of fuel mechanisms.

Adaptation to climate change for women would involve the removal of discrimination and violence against women as well as economic empowerment to reduce the high incidence of poverty. Women empowerment at the community level can involve the training of local women with life skills such as tailoring, baking, weaving among others. Provision of soft loans for trained women to venture into businesses will improve their lots and consequently that of their families. Poverty makes adaptation to climate change difficult and many African women especially in rural areas are caught in this trap. Poverty eradication will also involve improving women property rights like inheritance in the event of the death of a husband or a father. Discrimination against women makes owning property, including land that is vital for agricultural production difficult. These situations compound women poverty, make access to basic health care difficult for women and make them more vulnerable to climate change effects.

The Protocol on Rights of Women in Africa, Gender Equality and Climate Change

The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa was adopted on 11 July 2003, at the meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union and entered into force in November 2005, after getting its 15th ratification. The Protocol is a home-grown human-rights instrument that seeks to promote and protect the rights of African women by reinforcing international human-rights standards and adapting them to address context-specific violations of African women’s rights.

The importance of the protocol is mainly in its potential of changing negative power relations, gender inequality, dis-empowerment and impoverishment of women in Africa.
African women have enough backing in this protocol to challenge gender inequality which compounds the impact s of climate change on women. Through educating women, especially in rural areas that are hardly aware of such empowering tools, women can begin to hold on to the rights which several governments all over Africa are mandated to protect by virtue of their ratification of the Women Protocol. To make this protocol effective however, it is imperative for African governments to create an agency that would be responsible at local government levels to hear the cases of gender inequality like disinheritance of women and denial of women access to productive means such as land. This agency should take up such cases as this will improve not only women’s economic and health status but also improve their resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Africa and Climate Change – 2: Implications for African Women

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            To effectively carry out climate change adaptation and mitigation it is important to understand the impact of climate change on men and women to be able to reduce vulnerabilities. This will involve an understanding of how the different social expectations, roles, status and economic power of men and women affect and are affected differently by climate change[1].

Many communities have developed differences in roles for both men and women, drawn along gender lines. This difference in roles within communities, access to information, economic and social factors have to be analyzed for successful implementation of adaptation and mitigation measures. Men and women carry out activities that impact on climate change differently, just as they are impacted on by climate change differently. The most noticeable consequences of an increasingly warming earth have been felt in the areas of agriculture, food security, health, biodiversity, water resources, energy availability, housing and even security, which greatly affect women as a result of societal delineation of roles, discrimination and other peculiar vulnerabilities of women.

It is common consensus that women, especially in Africa are responsible for the management of natural resources at the household and community level. They are thus repositories of knowledge with respect to management of natural resources, are the first and worst hit by negative impacts on these natural resources and are also better placed to translate their knowledge of resource management into effective mitigation and adaptation techniques.

But gender inequality and societal discrimination against women effectively hamper their abilities to adapt to a changing climate and even contribute to mitigation.

Agriculture and Food Security

As active players in agriculture, women are more affected by the impacts of climate change on agriculture like decreasing yields due to decreasing mean rainfall and drought. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 70 – 80% of household food production is done by women. They have been able to achieve this in spite of unequal access to land, information and input such as improved seeds and fertilizer.[2]

Climate change results in traditional food sources becoming more unpredictable and scarce. This results in loss of income for women farmers as well as declining harvest that have implications on household and community food security. As a result consequent increases in food prices make life more difficult for the poor, who again are mainly women and girls. The impacts of food insecurity beyond economic implications are also skewed against women as they suffer more declines in health than men in such events. In spite of these realizations, women are often excluded from decision-making on access to and use of land and resources critical to their livelihoods. It is however critical that women rights are protected by removing discriminatory access to agricultural resources and allowing equitable participation in decision-making to improve the community food security situation in many African countries.

 Health

With rising temperatures there is the increasing risk of vector spread diseases like malaria. Many African women, especially pregnant ones die from malaria as pregnancy reduces immunity. Flooding from increasing sea levels will result in a spread in the breeding ground for malaria. There are already reports of increased malaria cases in Rwanda and Tanzanian highlands as a result of temperature rise[3]. At the present many African communities still do not have access to potable drinking water. Where water is available, the cost is usually too high for most people, especially poor rural women to afford. Many communities in Africa collect rain water into a reservoir during the raining seasons. Collected water barely last to the beginning of the dry seasons as there is water pressure for drinking, cooking, washing and other domestic chores with most families not being able to spare such ‘precious’ water for agriculture. My grandmother used to even bail water from the muddy ground into the reservoir. The reservoir was our source of cooking, washing and drinking water. Until I caught her in the act, I actually drank water from the reservoir. This practice is common among many women in my village as there is no source of tap water or even boreholes since the water table is so far from the surface. Many African women have resorted to this kind of unsafe practices and climate change promises to worsen the situation.

In dry seasons many African women resort to fetching water from streams that are yet to dry and this is also used for drinking, even with worms and several visible organisms dancing in the water. With climate change resulting in declining rainwater, women are bound to work harder to access water sources distant from them with such tiring journeys having health and growth implications, especially for girls who are also deprived from school on such occasions. With water scarcity many women resort to unsafe water sources like streams in many rural African communities for drinking, risking diseases like cholera, typhoid and diarrhea with huge mortality implications, especially as many rural African communities do not have adequate health facilities.

The health implications of climate change for many African women also have vicarious faces. In the event of illness of a family member, women are expected to tend to the sick. Increase in diseases as a consequence of climate change thus increases the responsibility burdens for women as they tend to the sick. This reduces available time for other economic activities and thus results in further impoverishment of already poor women, thus furthering a complex cycle of implications.

Water and Energy

Household water and energy provision in many African communities are the preserve of women. A study indicated that women in a Zimbabwean family contributed 91% to the task of fetching water, spending an average of 9.3 hours with men spending 1 hour of the total household time on this chore.[4] With climate change declining rainfall supplies, gathering and transporting water becomes more time-consuming as women have to walk longer distances in search of water. An estimate showed that ‘women in developing countries spend an average of 134 minutes a day collecting water for their households.[5]

In African communities where female children even shun schools on days designated by the family as ‘farm work or market days’, the consequence of water scarcity resulting from climate change poses the further threat of female children dropping out of school to meet the daily water needs of their households. This situation denies women the opportunities of educational and thus economic empowerment, furthers poverty and reduces their resilience to the impacts of climate change. Besides the increased workload on women with respect to water gathering, for communities, like urban areas where drinkable sources of water are available, such resources become more expensive, reducing not only accessibility but also affordability by women. Many women thus resort to unsafe water sources, with the obvious attending health implications.

Energy requirements for most rural African households require the combustion of wood for cooking. Women are also responsible for the gathering of this fuel. Combustion of wood contributes to anthropogenic CO2, thus women, most of them, being unaware are major relative contributors to climate change and in the end still constitute the hardest hit victims. This realization mandates the involvement of women in climate change awareness and policy making considering their critical place in both mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Many African women and girls spend longs hours every day collecting firewood, reducing the time for education and other economic activities that would normally emancipate them and their families from poverty traps. With the clamour for more effective energy use to reduce global contribution to CO2 emissions, it is important to develop strategies to aid women in using cleaner fuel sources as they aim to fulfill their responsibilities of domestic energy provision.

And Others

                The impacts of climate change, which have been shown to be generally disproportionate on women, are however beyond those considered above. Climate change has implications on migration, with environmental degradation and weather related events like flooding and erosion of shorelines resulting in displacement and migration of people. In the event of such happenings women are greatly affected due to their vulnerabilities.

Natural disasters which can be consequences of climate change also pose different consequences for men and women. These consequences are exacerbated for women especially due to gender inequality. A basic consideration clearly indicates that mortality rates are higher for women than for men in the event of natural disasters. Since in many societies, especially in Africa, women do not enjoy the same social and economic rights as men, more women die in the events of such natural disasters. Besides, certain societal factors like women’s susceptibility to abuse from men in the forms of rape and violence makes many women on the run during disasters reject available shelter as this increases their risk to abuse. Many women who survive during disasters need medical attention but this becomes a challenge as many women due to poverty and other social and economic constraints like lack of savings and assets prior to disasters, are unable to afford basic healthcare post-disaster.


[1] Gender and Climate Change, Why Consider Gender Equality When Taking Action On Climate Change?, CIDA, retrieved from http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/INET/IMAGES.NSF/vLUImages/Climate%20change3/$file/Gender-2.pdf, accessed May 28, 2011.

[2] ibid

[3] UN, Gender Perspectives on Climate Change, Commission on the Status of Women, Fifty Second Session, New York, 25 February – 7 March 2008. Page 5, retrieved from http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/csw52/panels/climatechangepanel/M.Hemmati%20Presentation%20Climate%20Change.pdf, accessed May 28, 2011

[4] Ibid, Page 4

[5] Ibid

Africa and Climate Change – 1: Introduction

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In the past couple of decades climate change has gained increasing recognition not just as a purely environmental issue but as a threat to sustainable development. Observations of current climate change as well as projections of the impacts in the near future indicate serious consequences for agriculture, human health, food security, biodiversity, water management and availability and even security arising from stresses on scarce and depleting resources. While these weather and climatic changes resulting mainly from human anthropogenic activities that birth rising temperature and the attendant disastrous consequences, the impacts of these changes as well as adaptation strategies vary from place to place. Africa in spite of being the least contributor with respect to anthropogenic greenhouse gases is however precariously positioned for the worst impact from climate change effects.

The peculiarity of poverty, lack of infrastructure and adaptation mechanism in Africa, over-dependence of agriculture on rain-fed water sources, deforestation for the purpose of fuel generation among others place Africa on the verge of a climate change impact crises. In spite of the foregoing fact however that climate change impacts are universal and Africa is at highest risk, the impacts of climate change are not however proportionally felt by both men and women. For one, the high incidence of poverty in Africa impinges on climate change adaptation capacities and thus women (who make up 70% of the poor), are consequently disproportionately affected[1]. Women are more vulnerable with respect to the impacts of climate change as especially in Africa they are mainly responsible for agriculture, domestic energy generation, water management and food security both at the household and community level. Women vulnerability is however heightened by the several cultural and societal discriminations against women along gender lines. For instance, with rising temperature, vector borne diseases like malaria are extending to regions they were hitherto not present. Women are more susceptible to such diseases as malaria, cholera and HIV/Aids. The lack of adequate health facilities to take care of the varied needs of women especially in rural Africa reduces their adaptation capacities and compounds the impacts of climate change.

In spite of these observations, it is pertinent to note that women are not playing an active role with respect to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Climate change policies have however not adequately included the gender perspective. The issues of gender inequality which are particularly serious in Africa cannot also be divorced from the impacts of climate change and women in Africa.

Aguilar et al makes the pertinent observation that “women are not just helpless victims of climate change – women are powerful agents of change and their leadership is critical. Women can help or hinder in dealing with issues such as energy consumption, deforestation, burning of vegetation, population growth and economic growth, development of scientific research and technologies, policy making among many others.”[2] This coupled with the consideration that climate change does not affect women and men proportionately as there are gender-differentiated impacts, requires that all aspects of climate change interventions ranging from mitigation to adaptation through policy development and decision-making must include a gender perspective.

Africa it is strategically poised to be worst hit by the attendant impacts of global climate change. The impacts of climate change are already visible and taking drastic dimensions in Africa. Over the last couple of years the Lake Chad has gradually depleted in volume. Large scale desertification, drought and rising sea level with disastrous consequences for coastal towns and the millions of Africans living there are imminent dangers.

With Africa’s population growing rapidly and natural resources being lost due to the climate change, there is the increasing risk of conflicts and insecurity arising from competition for available scarce resources like water and grazing fields for livestock. Africa houses some of the poorest countries of the world, thus making the region one of the most vulnerable to climate change impacts both in the short and long run.

In the last few decades the mean annual rainfall has gradually decreased over several parts of Africa. This has resulted in one third of Africans living in drought-prone areas especially in the Sahel Savanna, increasing the pressures on land and water resources and increasing the threat of food insecurity as agricultural production (where 60% of Africans depend directly for their livelihoods) has been greatly hampered.

Health implication of climate change for Africa is also huge.  Africa already has some of the worst health indices in the world. The incidence of HIV/Aids, malaria, cholera among others have highly contributed in taking child and maternal mortality as well as the overall life expectancy of the average African to embarrassing levels. With increasing temperature, vector borne diseases like malaria are bound to spread to other areas of Africa, thus worsening an already endemic situation. Stresses on water availability are also bound to result in increased incidences of diseases like cholera and typhoid as many Africans resort to less hygienic water sources for survival.

Continued on – 2


[1] Aguilar L., Aruajo A., Quesada Aguilar A., Gender and Climate Change, accessed May 27, 2011 at http://www.genderandenvironment.org

[2] ibid

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