Climate data for Middle Africa are neither strong nor widespread, and climate models for the region are not as robust as they are for other parts of the continent (particularly northern, southern and eastern Africa). Existing assessments project, however, that equatorial and coastal Africa (i.e., most of Middle Africa) could warm by approximately 3oC this century, at a slightly slower rate than the continental average, according to General Circulation Models (Christensen et al., 2007). The impact of this temperature increase on regional rainfall is uncertain, although most climate models expect a slight increase in precipitation across Middle Africa (see Figure 11.2 in Christensen et al., 2007). According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a slight increase in precipitation in the tropical region of Africa would be a plausible hydrological response to a warmer climate in this part of the continent, as higher temperatures lead to an increase in atmospheric water vapor and the region increasingly becomes an area of moisture convergence. A general increase in the intensity of high-rainfall events is also expected for the continent, which will influence flooding, drought and erosion trends (Christensen et al., 2007).
The impacts of climate change are expected to be less extreme in Middle Africa than in other parts of the continent and the region is generally seen as being of (relatively) lower climate risk (Boko et al., 2007). Abundant water resources, rich agricultural lands and low (current) population densities in most of the region mean that immediate adaptation demands are not as pronounced as they may be in the rest of Africa. Nevertheless, Middle Africa will experience a number of different impacts from climate change due to the region’s considerable size and the variety of ecosystems, topographies and climates that lie between Angola in the south and Chad in the north. These projected impacts include (Boko et al., 2007; CMEF, 2005; CMEFCPE, 2008; CMEWF, 2010; DRCMENCT, 2009; MFWFEPN, 2004; RCMSDFE, 2009; STPMNRE, 2004; STPMNRE, 2006):
- Agriculture: Agricultural losses of 2 to 4 per cent by the end of the century; increases in precipitation leading to a gradual shift from grasslands to forests, reducing available pasture; increased rates of evapotranspiration; changes in the length, timing and predictability of planting seasons; increases in heavy rainfall events; increased risks of drought and flooding; and a potential increase in the distribution of harmful livestock disease vectors.
- Coastal areas: Coastal flooding from sea-level rise; intrusion of saltwater into lagoons, coastal lakes and coastal aquifers; threatened coastal infrastructure and industry; and short-term migration from coastal settlements.
- Human health: Increase in water- and vector-borne diseases (such as cholera); and increases in the incidence of meningitis.
Identified Adaptation Needs and Priorities
Despite a low climate risk relative to the rest of the continent, vulnerabilities to climate change do exist in Middle Africa, and without adaptation action they will likely increase. As a result of the vulnerability assessments conducted in National Communications to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and National Adaptation Programmes for Action (NAPAs), the countries of Middle Africa have identified a number of key sectors to be prioritized for adaptation action: agriculture, human health, freshwater resources, coastal zone management, forestry, and fisheries (CMEF, 2005; CMEFCPE, 2008; CMEWF, 2010; DRCMENCT, 2009; MFWFEPN, 2004; RCMSDFE, 2009; STPMNRE, 2004; STPMNRE, 2006). Adaptation needs and priorities include:
- Agriculture: Awareness raising on sustainable natural resource management among pastoral communities; research into drought-resistant seed varieties; strengthening the productive capacity of the agricultural sector; and strengthening the adaptive capacity and resilience of the livestock sector.
- Human health: Undertaking preventive initiatives (including education programs, improved water systems, early warning systems for natural disasters, improved access to health services); improving basic sanitation infrastructure; launching anti-malaria campaigns; and enhancing measures in place to reduce vector-borne diseases.
- Freshwater resources: Increasing access to safe drinking water; developing a plan for the use of water resources; building capacity for national integrated water resource management; improving the use of surface water resources to reduce climate vulnerabilities and improve food security; and developing irrigation infrastructure.
- Coastal zone management: Improving zoning requirements in the coastal zones and resettlement programs; improving the strength and resilience of coastal housing; improving protection through the construction of dikes; and improving coastal zone observation, information-sharing and climate risk management
- Forestry: Capacity building among communities for forest management; promoting urban and peri-urban forestry; expanding community participation in reforestation projects; and expanding reforestation, conservation and sustainable forestry management projects for REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) benefits.
- Fisheries: Building shelters and mooring stations for fishing boats; developing early storm warning systems; and increasing the productivity and safety of local fisheries.
Source: Review of Current and Planned Adaptation Action: Middle Africa. Contributing Authors: Alec Crawford, Hilary Hove, Jo-Ellen Parry (International Institute for Sustainable Development), 2011.