Cattle die in the drought - district of Admitullu Jiddo Kombolcha in Ethiopia Safia Fungie Hasenna's home district used to be known for its livestock but the drought has killed many animals. Photo Credit: Zeresenay Berhane Mehar/ Oxfam International/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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East African countries are seeking joint solutions to climate change

 Drought in East Africa has been an enduring challenge, but the current drought was exacerbated by increasingly high temperatures from mounting global warming. The affected countries are working on a joint approach to tackle these life-threatening climate events.

The Horn of Africa has some of the most vibrant and vast drylands. Drylands are the key to global food and nutrition security, with up to 44 per cent of the world’s cultivated systems located in drylands. Ordinarily, species, ecosystems, and populations found in drylands have unique tactics to cope with low and sporadic rainfall. But even with their adaptability and ability to recover in adverse conditions, worsening conditions have challenged even the most robust survival techniques.

Over the last decade, international donors have spent roughly $90 billion in just nine countries with large dryland areas, accounting for almost 50 percent of all global humanitarian assistance during this period. Building resilience to these recurrent crises is a priority in managing large-scale humanitarian emergencies in the Horn of Africa. This is why affected national governments and regional institutions such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), development partners, and other donors came together to form The Horn of Africa Resilience Network (HoRN).

The network “supports USAID’s objective of strengthening regional and cross-national collaboration and improving evidence-based resilience programming; to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies that feature broad-based economic growth, healthy, well-nourished, and educated populations, and environmental sustainability,” according to its network.

They believe that even though natural disasters are an unstoppable force, communities can be empowered to prepare for, endure and recover from the resulting shocks- thus reducing chronic vulnerability and improving the social and economic conditions of relevant populations.

HoRN’s knowledge-sharing and resilience strategies

At the second gathering this year in a learning event, HoRN participants including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) bilateral mission representatives and academic and research institutions, discussed climate change, its effects, the future, resilience, and the development agenda.

According to the East African, the deliberations under the theme ‘Climate change adaptation and resilience: Managing risks for a more resilient future’, highlighted issues through cultural lenses, livelihoods, economies, health, and access to fundamental rights that affect local communities in the region.

In the meeting Laurie Ashley, the Resilience and Climate Adaptation Advisor-Centre for Resilience at USAID noted that most impacts of climate change are related to water— too much of which results in flooding and too little of which results in drought — as is the current situation in many places within the HoRN region.

Dead and dying animals at the Dambas, Arbajahan, Kenya, which has dried up due to successive years of very little rain. Africa’s climates have always been erratic but there is evidence that global warming is increasing droughts, floods and climate uncertainty and unpredictability. Picture credit: Brendan Cox / Oxfam/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

She explained that USAID has created a climate change strategy for 2022-2030 that targets:

  • Adaptation, which will improve the climate resilience of 500 million people, and $150 billion in public and private finance for the climate agenda.
  • Mitigation, where USAID will collaborate with countries to support activities that reduce, avoid, or sequester an equivalent of six billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide. Natural and Managed Ecosystems will also be supported for the conservation, restoration, or management of 100 million hectares, with a climate change mitigation benefit.
  • Critical populations, to achieve systemic changes that increase meaningful participation and active leadership in climate action for indigenous people, local communities, women, youth, and other marginalised and underrepresented groups in at least 40 partner countries.

In her opening remarks, USAID Acting Mission Director for Kenya and East Africa, Sheila Roquette called for adoption of a joint implementation approach, saying it would yield the maximum results needed to ensure communities become resilient and interventions lead to desired results.

“Only together can we achieve resilient systems guided by national and regional priorities. There is a need for greater and strengthened regional and cross-border collaboration to advance resilience in the region,” she said.

Climate change adaptation measures explored at length during the session in response to the current drought crisis included promoting climate-smart agriculture and sustainable, regenerative, and conservative tillage, enhancing capital-intensive precision agriculture, solarising streets and water sources, enhancing drought and flood management and developing more early maturing drought-resistant crops.

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