SADC Under Threat

Southern African Development Community member states are under threat from the effects of climate change, which have resulted in recurrent droughts, erratic rainfall patterns and food deficit. This is amid endless debates and shifting of goal posts by the developed world on their greenhouse gas reduction commitments.

It has been decades since the first warnings about climate change sounded the world over and already the developing nations are wallowing in climate change-induced poverty with no concrete solutions in sight to adapt and stave it off.

Various reasons have been put forward within the Southern African region to unravel the real causes of the successive droughts and water crisis and, chief among them, was climate change, sometimes referred to as global warming.

Developing and developed countries have since time immemorial ‑ at regional and at international level meetings ‑ debated and deliberated on ways and contingency plans on how best to tame the ‘formidable animal’ called ‘climate change’ but a solution remains elusive. High-sounding euphemistic resolutions and agenda deliberated on climate change remain idle goals.

Ratifications and provisions have been set since the offshoot of the Kyoto Protocol from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Developed countries and developed nations signed pacts and a treaty to provide a general arena for tackling climate change. World Conference of Parties (COP) are being held year in year out but with no tangible solution in sight.

In the same vein, regional groupings and scientists are now throwing caution to the wind and telling it as it is, that climate change is here and has since shown signs and symptoms in most African regions. Economic and political expediency and interests between the developed and the developing nations always override most of the climate change conventions and debates.

Developed countries that stand accused of having emitted much of the greenhouse gases – the chief cause of climate change ‑ continue to shift goal posts on their commitment to fund mitigation and adaptation measures as well as fund the poor nations to deal with climate change effects.

Divergent economic and political interests between the developed nations (heavy polluters) and the developing countries (less polluters) are stalling and eclipsing climate change debates.

Developing countries should not compromise their development in order to qualify for funds that industrialised countries have mobilised under the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or dance to the capricious whims of the developed world, as they are already bearing the brunt of the climate change despite being less polluters.

The Kyoto Protocol sets down legally binding commitments for industrialised countries that have ratified it to limit or reduce emissions of six categories of heat trapping gases by at least 5 percent below their 1990 levels in the commitment period 2008 to 2012. The protocol, however, did not give developing nations any binding greenhouse gas emission targets due to low industrialisation of such nations.

While climate change debates are proving to be utopian goals, reports of food deficits and droughts in the Southern African region are becoming perennial and incessant.

Zimbabwe’s Minster of Environment and Natural Resources, Francis Nhema, says it is imperative for African countries to ensure that their interests were considered and co-opted into solutions in climate change conference negotiations.

“It is important that the interests of Africans, that is, issues of adaptation, provision of technological transfer and financial support for adaptation and mitigation should not be overemphasized as we are already facing climatic change catastrophes,” he said.   

The SADC Regional Food Security Situation for 2011/ 2012 growing season and marketing year has shown that most of the region’s agro-ecological parts have received below-normal rainfall. Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Botswana and Angola experienced erratic rains in the different southern parts of their agro-regions. Overall food security in the region ‑ excluding Madagascar, Seychelles and the DRC ‑ was generally satisfactory, resulting in overall maize and cereal surplus from Malawi, South Africa and Zambia, among others.

Climate change has seriously affected agriculture in the SADC region, which mostly contributes 4 percent to 27 percent of the GDP and 13 percent of the total export earnings. The sector has already started experiencing the deleterious effects of climatic change, witnessed by prolonged dry spells that have negatively affected crop performance and caused crop failure in most different Southern African regions.

Zimbabwe was once known as the Southern Africa region’s breadbasket, ensuring food security in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc.

Persistent droughts have since reduced most regional states to perennial food importers. Malawi, which had a surplus in cereal and maize grains this year, has assisted many neighbouring member states, according to 2011/12 Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Directorate report.

Southern African countries are likely to ‑ if not already ‑ plunge into the donor-driven food dependency syndrome vortex. European Union (EU) or the US-funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been feeding parts of the SADC region’s communities, with the beneficiaries scared to look the gift horse in the mouth lest they find it has no tongue. The donor-driven food aid usually comes with strings attached and that keeps the region in the vicious cycle of poverty.

Most of the climate change is anthropogenic (human cause) such as burning of fossil fuels in vehicles, resulting in the release of greenhouse gases that deplete the ozone layer causes global warming, mainly from the industrialised nations. While most assessments have blamed the developed world’s unsustainable development paths for climate change, findings have shown that even developing countries are becoming major players in the generation of greenhouse gases. Unsustainable deforestation, mining and other improper land use have since exacerbated the ravaging effects of climate change in most Sub-Saharan countries.

Environment Africa Director, Barnabas Mawire, recently said developed nations should mobilise funds, which developing nations can access to fund their adaptation and mitigatory projects in the fight against climate change, such as implementing coping strategies for droughts, floods, pests and diseases monitoring systems as well as strengthening other national and regional action plans.

“It is important for most African nations within the Sub-Saharan region to keep on developing their industrial bases as they risk lagging behind in development, while trying to concentrate on complying with the provisions of the protocol. Developing nations should find ways of mobilising and accessing their own funds for adaptation and mitigation projects as they fight against climate change such as the devising of coping strategies like water harvesting and conservation, irrigation projects, practising conservation farming like growing drought-resistant crops in most arid areas hit by climate change,” said Mawire.

Zimbabwe’s climate change national co-ordinator, Washington Zhakata, stated in a Climate Change Awareness Dialogue that “it’s time to stop waffling endless debates on climate change so much”. He said there is strong evidence that climate change is real, the greenhouse effect is here ‑ and is here among us ‑ and calls for greater global co-operation in the fight against climate change.

“Signs and symptoms of climate change are already showing, while unprecedented heat and rainfall extremes are here and are causing intense human suffering and diseases in most Southern African regions.

“We need to overlook economic and political interests and stop apportioning blame to each other. Instead nations should find lasting solutions of mitigating and adapting to climate change effects,” said Zhakata.      

This year’s climate change summit in Doha should be a platform for Southern African countries to find pragmatic lasting solutions in the fight against climate change. 

November 2012
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