Poverty, Climate Condition, and Climate Adaptation in Sub-Saharan Africa

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According to a study on climate and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa, the region is home to the world’s extremely poor populations and identified as very vulnerable to climatic shocks or extreme weather conditions. Scientists projects that because of the continuing negative effects of climate change in agriculture these people will not likely to get out of poverty (Azzarri & Signorelli, 2019).

Published in 2019, the “Climate and poverty in Africa South of the Sahara” study by Azzarri & Signorelli mentions the following:

  • The World Bank also estimates that a hundred million people around the globe are at risk of falling back into poverty as a direct result of climatic events. The most affected households will be in South Asia and the SSA.
  • In the past studies on poverty in Africa remains at the country or national level. This overlooks the regional differences in poverty and even the geographic groupings of well-being that exists in at the sub-regional level.  
  • The study conducts a household survey of 24 countries in Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), a representative of more than half of the African population and two-thirds of the SSA.  It looks at how long-term climatic conditions and year-specific shocks affects their income, food consumptions and spending.
  • The countries included in the study are Angola, Burkina_Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Congo DRC, Ethiopia, Ghan, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Countries living in Congo DRC, some areas in Tanzania, Zamia, and Malawi, Madagascar, Nigeria and Niger, some areas in Northern Ghana are those who are living in extreme poverty.
  • Usually, these very poor households are living in the driest villages of dry areas and the wettest villages of wet areas.
  • The study shows that there has been a decline in the average rainfall in the across the whole African continent since the 1950’s while temperature is steadily increasing across the African continent.

Azzarri & Signorelli (2019) says, “What is interesting about the findings of the study is that drought and heatwaves do not seem to have a devastating effect on well-being in some areas of the Sub-Saharan in fact, the opposite is true. For example, droughts are associated with better outcomes in West Africa and heatwaves are associated with improved outcomes in Central Africa. Positive outcomes here refer to the amount of food consumption and expenditure. This positive outcome is probably the result of the wide distribution of drought-tolerant crops and better farming adaptation practices to rain shortages.”

Other research findings

  • Humid areas increase the well-being of the community because of higher moisture benefits crop growth and productivity. Populations living in humid areas also spend higher on food and reduces extreme poverty rates than those living in drier areas.
  • Flood shocks and excessive rains have the most detrimental effects on well-being as it lowers food consumption by 35% and expenditures and increases poverty by 17 per cent.
  • These findings show that households in the study are more resilient to drought than extreme flooding.
  • The study also reveals that it is the small-holder farmers who are most vulnerable to climate variability and the poorest of all groups, compared to large-holder farmers and non-farming households. This finding is important because 80 per cent of food supplies in the SSA and Asia is produced by small scale family farmers. So not only will climate change affect food supplies but will affect a significant portion of the population in SSA.
  • Lastly, the study finds that future increases in weather shocks associated with climate change have an alarming effect on regional poverty rate across Africa.
  • Because effects of climatic events are experienced differently on each region- other regions benefit in heatwaves while some benefits in more humid climates, the study recommends a local-specific adaptation and mitigation strategies are suggested in different regions in Africa.

Climate adaptation Africa

The Azzarri & Signorelli (2019) study challenges us to think about how the people are able to cope despite the interrelated challenges of poverty and the ever-changing climate conditions. There is also the need for sustainable climate adaptation strategies in these places.

The Food and Agriculture Organization provides pilot projects on climate adaptation related to land and water management in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. It targets over 15 thousand households as direct beneficiaries and aims to strengthen their adaptive capacity to climate change (Towards climate change, 2020).

These projects focus on increasing soil health, harvesting water, livelihood diversification, and networking and capacity building (Towards climate change, 2020).

To learn further about the study, please refer to the following sources:

Azzarri, C. & Signorelli, S. (2019, October 4). Climate and poverty in Africa South of the Sahara. World Development. Volume 125. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305750X19303390

Towards climate change adaptation in sub-Saharan Africa (2020). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/in-action/towards-climate-change-adaptation-in-sub-saharan-africa/en/

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