Climate change and poverty in Africa: mapping hotspots of vulnerability

Climate change and poverty in Africa: mapping hotspots of vulnerability

Which areas in Africa are most vulnerable to climate change?

Climate change and increasing climate variability threaten the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Some of the worst effects on human health and agriculture will be in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in vulnerable regions. However, despite the magnitude of the changes likely, the intersection of climate change, crop production and livestock keeping in sub-Saharan Africa is a neglected area of research.

This paper aims to fill this research gap. It uses a broad-brush analysis at the continental level to identify areas or “hotspots” that are already vulnerable and likely to suffer substantial impacts as a result of climate change.

The study finds that many vulnerable regions are likely to be adversely affected in sub-Saharan Africa, including the mixed arid-semiarid systems in the Sahel, arid-semiarid rangeland systems in parts of East Africa, the Great Lakes region of East Africa, the coastal regions of East Africa, and many of the drier zones of southern Africa.

Two policy implications are drawn from the analysis:

  • the availability of appropriate data for carrying out vulnerability and impact analyses is a key issue, and in many parts of Africa there are serious problems with the existing data collection systems. There is a continuing need for baseline data to improve targeting and priority setting and considerable and widespread collaboration is needed for data collection and utilisation activities in the African context - this will require an increase in policy action
  • there may be a considerable mismatch between the magnitude of the problems facing sub-Saharan Africa and the size of the likely development domain for specific options for helping communities adapt that are appropriate to local conditions. The development domains for climate change interventions may thus be geographically relatively small.

The authors conclude that these results argue against large ‘magic bullet’ approaches and favour smaller, better targeted local approaches and interventions. Considerable future work is needed to refine the hotspots analysis and increase the resolution of impact studies, and thus contribute to a better understanding of the issues facing millions of people who depend on natural resources for their livelihood.

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