African nations adopt $1.1m budget for climate investments

FRESH prospects may be on the card for the African countries seeking assistance to halt extreme weather incidents, necessitated by climate change, if statements made recently by delegates to the continent’s Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET) are anything to go by.

 Apparently bothered that Climate change will have serious and adverse consequences for many development sectors in Africa, and threatens the economies and livelihoods of many African countries, scientists and environmentalists are seeking investments in research and advisory services to develop and disseminate adaptation options, and scaling-up investments that build resiliency. For instance, floods, droughts and rising sea levels are just some of the environmental impacts of climate change on Sub-Saharan Africa.

   The new development made African countries to agree recently to strengthen their meteorological services to reduce the impact of extreme weather events at a meeting of ministers in Cape Verde. 

   In a declaration adopted at the end of the five-day African Ministerial Conference on Meteorology (AMCOMET), delegates recognized that “investments in weather and climate services help save lives and property, minimize economic losses and preserve the environment.”

   Part of the discussion focused on recent natural disasters on the continent, such as deadly floods in January in Malawi and Mozambique. The participants adopted a budget of around one million euros (US$1.1 million) for the organization, created in 2010 in Nairobi, mainly originating from member states’ contributions.

  “This year and the coming years are critical years for the planet in general, and specifically for Africa,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which launched AMCOMET alongside the African Union.

  “Africa is very vulnerable to extreme weather events, Africa is highly vulnerable to climate variability,” he said at the closing news conference.

  The African Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, who was who was represented by Olushola Olayide, said adaptation to climate change was “a priority for Africa. It is Africa that most needs to adapt.”

   Progress made at the meeting and others planned on the mainland will allow Africa “to speak with one voice in the upcoming negotiations in 2015” on climate, particularly in Paris at the end of the year, she said. 

 Meanwhile, while the continent of more than one billion people is no more exposed to extreme weather than other parts of the planet, Jolamu Nkhokwe, director of the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services in Malawi, says farmers, fishermen and others often do not take prevention messages seriously, building homes in riverbeds and other low-lying areas. 

“Culturally, people are living in villages, and there are village headmen who do not want to move out from certain places for fear that if they move… that land will be grabbed by another group of people,” he says.

“So they keep clinging to the same flood-prone areas although they will be in danger of any flooding in that area.”

  As January’s floods in Malawi left hundreds dead, many more homeless and devastated crops, some observation stations were reporting record rainfall of nearly 400mm in one day, Nkhokwe told AFP.

“It’s a matter of telling the people that there is climate change and we are bound to be getting more extreme rainfall… and people should not be staying in flood-prone areas anymore.”

Atanasio Joao Manhique, director of Mozambique’s National Institute of Meteorology, says people in flood plains often ignore alerts about rising water levels simply because they have no experience of the unprecedented danger.

“You see, people are used to living in a place. They have been there for 10 years they have never seen (this),” he told AFP.

In Chad, a country where the televised weather report has only existed for a few years, climate change has been off the radar, says Haoua Acyl, the Secretary of State for Civil Aviation and Meteorology.



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