Planning for climate change in the semi-arid regions of Southern Africa

Planning for climate change in the semi-arid regions of Southern Africa

Semi-arid areas in Southern Africa are characterised by high rainfall variability, frequent droughts, low soil moisture and extreme events such as flash floods. These conditions provide the foundation of vulnerability of communities in these areas.

Such communities are generally dependent on primary production and natural resources, rely on rain-fed agriculture, have limited livelihood options and employment opportunities, depend on activities that are sensitive to the impacts of climate change, face high levels of poverty, are exposed to high levels of HIV/AIDS, have limited infrastructure and services, and are affected by limited institutional capacity and weak resource governance.

It is therefore essential to understand how to enhance the ability of communities, local organisations and governments in Southern Africa to adapt to climate change in a way that minimises vulnerability and promotes long-term resilience.

Key points:

  • The semi-arid regions of Southern Africa are a true climate change “hot-spot” – experiencing more extreme climate changes than surrounding areas
  • Over the next 50 years, and compared to the surrounding areas, these regions are expected to become hotter, with continued variation in rainfall and more flooding
  • Climate changes – including increased frequency and intensity of droughts and floods – are predicted to negatively impact food security, economic growth, infrastructure and human health

The way forward:

  • improve technical capacity at the national and sub-national levels, to develop a greater understanding of climate change and its effects, and to develop and implement appropriate responses and adaptation strategies to reduce the impacts of floods, low rainfall and high temperatures on people, crops, livestock, infrastructure and services
  • agricultural adaptation strategies may include: coordinating the timing of ploughing and crop planting events with rainfall events; using drought-resistant crop varieties and livestock breeds; shifting livestock to alternative grazing areas and; implementing soil and water conservation policies and practices
  • develop common goals and facilitate better integration of different policies and practice sectors
  • develop policies and programmes that accommodate and encourage new and diverse livelihood options and generate financial capital
  • build an improved and accessible evidence base of adaptation options, and their associated benefits, that provides tangible demonstrations of these benefits
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