Addressing the Burden of Climate Change in Eastern Africa

By Alexia Kioko and Melissa Ouya With contributions from the IGAD Climate Change Technical Working Group

07 May, 2023 Article 30

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Communities in Eastern Africa are already experiencing severe impacts of climate change, and the effects are wide-ranging and significant. Some impacts include droughts causing crop failures, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity, extreme weather events like floods and heatwaves, and health impacts like the spread of water-borne diseases. Since the October-November season of 2020, the region has been experiencing its most severe drought in 40 years, characterized by prolonged dry periods that are occasionally interrupted by brief, heavy rainfall, which frequently causes flash floods. The drought has had significant effects on people's livelihoods and health. Approximately 50 million people in the Horn of Africa have been directly impacted by the drought, with an additional 100 million affected within the broader region. Ethiopia's food security and nutrition situation revealed that the Global Acute Malnutrition prevalence exceeded the 19.5% emergency threshold. Additionally, the acute malnutrition situation in South Sudan is expected to deteriorate further. Other drought-related impacts affecting the region include loss of livestock and displacement.

On April 12, 2023, the D2E project held an informal teatime seminar dubbed 'Can we talk?' with the theme ‘the burden of climate change in Eastern Africa’. ICPAC experts drawn from various fields, including hydrologists, food security experts, climate policy experts, disaster risk management experts, climate modelers, climate scientists, and climate change and adaptation experts attended the event. The seminar aimed at disseminating outputs from the Down2Earth Project, brainstorming new ideas, and fostering collaboration across different projects. Such seminars will be held monthly to enable stakeholders to brainstorm different strategies to address the burden of climate change in Eastern Africa.

The Down2Earth Project is working to quantify the impact of climate change on water and food insecurity using various aspects such as the hydrological model, the climate model, user engagement, and policy analysis. For instance, the D2E project has developed an economic hydrological model (DRYP) that incorporates the critical processes of water partitioning in dryland regions, which has been applied to three basins covering Mieso Woreda in Ethiopia, Isiolo County in Kenya, and Odweyne District in Somaliland. The Climate into Useful Water and Land Information in Drylands (CUWALID) model is also being developed to generate seasonal output on water availability and possibly crop yields, providing more regional-scale valuable information for end-users. However, there is a need for a synergized approach across related and connected projects like CONFER, CLIMSA, RICCAMA, and others to address sustainability challenges jointly. Collective initiatives aimed at reporting and documenting experiences, gaps, and areas of improvement are therefore vital and regular seminars could enable this.

With consumers' increased use of climate information, more collaboration with other projects on end-user engagement and shared approaches are vital. Supporting and working together with Disaster risk sectors to produce impact-based forecasting for anticipatory action and effective humanitarian interventions should be prioritized. Collective initiatives in reporting and documenting experiences, gaps, and areas of improvement are, therefore, a necessary way forward that regular seminars could enable.

In conclusion, close collaboration across various projects and sectors is necessary to develop effective models and tools for hydrological and climate forecasting, emphasizing end-user needs and engagement. Supporting and working with disaster risk sectors to produce impact-based forecasting for anticipatory action and effective humanitarian interventions should also be prioritized.

Tags: #Down2Earth