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A choice between feeding or saving the planet?

Elwyn Grainger-Jones's picture

News from the Sahel region of Africa is not good – failed rains leading to famine. Worst affected is Niger, where half of that nation’s 15 million people now face severe food shortages after several years of drought. Climate change will only increase the frequency of such events.


For most people living in this area, agriculture is their main source of income. The International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD) believes that good agricultural and rural development programs can both help to feed a growing population and conserve the planet we live on. For example, last week one of my team met Baraka. Her family farms a small patch of land in the Maradi region of Niger, where we are helping her and the others in the village introduce zero-till agriculture and regenerate degraded ecosystems to increase food production. Farming in a sustainable way also strengthens their capacity to deal with climate change.


It was images of villages like this that were in my mind when earlier this month, I was invited to the World Bank in Washington to discuss the links among climate, environment and agriculture. We―bank staff and representatives of the NGO development and research communities―asked ourselves one simple question: Are we linking these issues together or do we still see them in separate boxes?

Think Africa, Think Mitigation

Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu's picture

Photo: Tropical forestThis weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on the `Transformational Priorities for Africa in a Changing Climate’ as part of the World Bank Group Spring meetings in Washington DC.  In my remarks, I spoke on how Africa is often perceived as a place which offers only adaptation opportunities. I argued that the continent offers mitigation opportunities too – especially in the area of deforestation.


We all know that deforestation and forest degradation cause 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. By using Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) mechanisms to save half of this, we could reduce global emissions by at least 10%. This translates into a huge potential for Africa.


Why so few carbon projects in Africa?

Isabel Hagbrink's picture
In Ethiopia, Humbo mountain is thriving after early regeneration efforts. Photo © World Vision

What are the obstacles to implementing carbon projects in Africa?

This was the question underlying many of the discussions at the Africa Carbon Forum, which took place in Nairobi, Kenya on March 3-5, 2010.

Over 1,000 participants attended the conference to discuss obstacles such as lack of financing, lack of experience and technical skill, land titling and monitoring challenges, and the complexity of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) rules. These hurdles have to date resulted in low numbers of African carbon projects: only 2% of CDM projects registered by the UNFCCC are in Africa.

Copenhagen: No Ordinary Conference

Inger Andersen's picture

Moving with the masses inside the cavernous Bella Center for the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an experience in itself: Buddhist monks in flowing orange robes, young people with more body piercings that one can imagine mingling with UN bureaucrats, and bicycle enthusiasts advocating for pedal power. The “Tck Tck Tck” campaign (get it?  the clock is ticking and time is running out) is the most amusing with cool cartoons and “mini-happenings” along the corridors. 

Shortly after my arrival, I noticed that many of the conference participants were sporting large canvas bags advocating a vegan lifestyle. This initially puzzled me; can it really be that there are so many vegans in the crowd?  Well, not really – the “Copenvegan" advocates do not have badges to the conference and are standing by the metro as participants enter the security zone handing out these very practical bags. Great advertising; their message is everywhere. Then there is the crowd sporting T-shirts and banners calling for “Hopenhagen;” they are also everywhere, on billboards in the Metro station, on posters on the street, and within the Bella Center.

Africa and climate change: enhancing resilience, seizing opportunities

Raffaello Cervigni's picture

A new page on the World Bank’s web site emphasizes that addressing climate change is first and foremost a development priority for Africa. Even if emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases stopped today, there is wide agreement among scientists that global temperature will increase by 2 degrees Celsius by mid-century. If no action is taken to adapt to climate change, it threatens to dissipate the gains made by many African countries in terms of economic growth and poverty reduction over the past ten years.

  Photo © World Bank 
A major reason is that climate change is expected to increase the frequency and severityof droughts and floods. This will have serious consequences for vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, which now contributes some 30percent of GDP and employs 70 percent of the population in Africa. Climate change is also likely to spread malaria (already the biggest killer in the region) to areas currently less affected by it, particularly those at higher elevations. 

Update from Waso Village, Kenya

Sam Stanyaki's picture
    Photo © Julia Bucknall/World Bank

It is very hard to explain through writing what befell us. The drought is more that what is seen on telly. I am now only left with one cattle. The rest were wiped by the drought. That makes me feel as if there is no future in me. I had a dream of seeing the number I had increase to more than I could think of. Now that dream is gone.

We had rain for only two days, the 15th and 16th of October. This is not enough to make the land green, so we are still hoping for more. I am touched by offers of help. I wish you could make some grass for me. Since there haven't been any rain in most places in the country, we found it difficult to move the cattle in search of grass. Many died on the way.

Africa’s Development in a Changing Climate

Marianne Fay's picture

    Photo © World Bank
In step with our Nairobi launch of the World Development Report 2010: Development and Climate Change, we issued a news release focusing on Sub-Saharan Africa , as well as a policy booklet containing the main messages of the report for Africa and elements from the World Bank’s climate change strategy in this region.

The booklet draws attention to the urgent need to tackle the varied impacts of climate change on Africa’s agriculture, forests, food security, energy, water, infrastructure, health, and education. The continent’s natural fragility means that changes in rainfall patterns, increased droughts and floods, and sea level rise are already causing damage and affecting people’s lives.

Preparation, not procrastination, for effective drought management

Nate Engle's picture
Preparation, not procrastination, for effective drought management
    Photo © World Bank

As more frequent and intense droughts (which I described in a previous post as the ‘dry face of climate variability’) are expected in the future with climate change, there is an urgent need for more such efforts across the world to improve and expand the mechanisms for managing and coping with them. 

Because drought is spatially widespread and can last for long periods of time, its management extends from the household to the international level. We approach drought management in different ways depending on the sector or resource, and it is usually addressed reactively, rather than proactively.

Update from Waso Village, Kenya

Sam Stanyaki's picture

Last week , I had nine cattle.

But two of my cattle have died since then, and four are close to death. I cannot replace my loss with cattle from my father as four of his cattle have died too. 

I am not sure what I am going to do.

  Another Masai cattle owner. Photo © Ann Phillips













Carbon sequestration by trying to re-create indigenous forests

Julia Bucknall's picture

I saw one of the World Development Report’s recommendations in action yesterday. Kenya’s Green Belt Movement (founded by Professor Wangari Maathai) is working with the Kenya Forest Service, with support from the French Development Agency, a grant from the Government of Japan (PHRD) and carbon credits (both managed by the World Bank), to replant native forests. 

     Mercy Karunditu, Project Officer

The original forest had been cut down and a tough native grass had taken over. Patches of grass had to be cut in order to plant the seedlings of native trees and the grass constantly managed for the first years until the trees were strong enough. The team told us how the carbon credits were planned for 12 years from the start of the project, though it was clear that the trees would still be small at that point. Up front financing for a period of many years is clearly essential. 

Project officer Mercy Karunditu told us of the multiple challenges the team faces in nurturing these seedlings.  First, villagers grazing their animals on the land where the year old seedlings stand at just ankle height.  Second, elephants which destroy the seedlings. Third, fires set by villagers in the native forests to encourage growth of new grass for their animals. And fourth, climate change. 
“We used to be sure when the rains would come, now we cannot be sure and when they do come they are very strong and last only for a very short period,” Mercy said. 


Getting the operational details right so that teams like this can succeed will be key to making this tool, which brings both mitigation and adaptation benefits, succeed.