Experts on African climate adaptation say the continent must push for protecting livestock as an immediate need in climate financing, seeing it as a better strategy to combat food shortages on the continent caused by erratic weather.
Ahead of the climate Conference of Parties (COP28) meeting in Dubai, the African Union and some 50 organisations involved in livestock farming and related technologies said in an open letter that climate financing should be channelled to farmers to help them adapt to the changing climate.
Nazanine Moshiri, senior analyst on climate, environment and conflict for Africa at the International Crisis Group, said helping communities to adapt on the continent can also help reduce incidences of instability.
“Adapting to climate shocks protects communities and promotes stability by curbing knock-on effects, like political and social tensions.
There’s a whopping $41.3 billion annual gap to meet the $52.7 billion needed each year for adaptation measures in Africa by 2030.
Another priority is the Loss and Damage Fund, a potential lifeline for African countries experiencing weather related disasters,” she said.
In Dubai, she added, African negotiators are grappling with how to ensure that climate diplomacy “is firewalled from the many wars and economic distractions going on.”
“The risk, as always, is that richer nations prioritise their own political interests over the greater good during these talks. That would be disastrous for Africa, already experiencing the unavoidable and irreversible impacts of climate change. It is only just that wealthier carbon-emitting countries compensate the victims of their pollution.”
Livestock, the experts argue, supports millions of households on the continent.
“Animals such as camels, cows, and donkeys, along with goats, sheep, and chickens represent food, livelihoods, drought power, fertiliser, fibre and a convertible source of income, especially if crops fail,” they argued on Tuesday.
The letter is a campaign began by the International Livestock Research Institute (Ilri) based in Nairobi and its signatories include Josefa Sacko, the African Union Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment.
Others are Margaret Rugut Kibogy, managing director of Kenya Dairy Board, and Emmanuel Ngore, the facilitator of the Consortium for African Youth in Agriculture and Climate Change.
Also on the list are Adesuwa Ifedi, senior vice-president of Africa Programmes at Heifer International, Dereje Wakjira, director of the Igad Centre for Pastoral Areas and Livestock Development and Boubakary Barry, the West Africa Platform for Traditional Pastoralists’ Leaders executive secretary.
The campaign came ahead of the climate conference, which would discuss transitions to greener energy and includes adaptation and mitigation from climate shocks. Climate change has brought floods, droughts, new sets of pests and conflict.
In the Horn of Africa, some 13 million livestock died during the recent drought, according to an estimate by Ilri. Other regions such as Niger and South Sudan have recently experienced floods that have raised disease outbreaks.
Aliow Mohamed, the Somalia country director for Islamic Relief says recent floods have worsened the situation for more than half of the population who already suffered hunger from drought, leaving at least 1.5 million infants malnourished. Somalia and Kenya have reported more than 130 deaths from the ongoing rains. Now animals and crops are expected to die under this weather phenomenon.
“People have suffered so much from drought and now flooding. This quick shift demonstrates the increasing volatility of our climate and how climate-related crises affect the poorest people most of all,” Mohamed said.
It can take up to five years for farmers to recover from these losses. And the experts say in the open letter that livestock can provide valuable agricultural resilience to climate extremes.
“Helping animals and herders to adapt to climate stresses can prevent critical food and economic losses and meet rising demand, while also supporting animal welfare and protecting the most vulnerable in the face of rising temperatures and unpredictable rains,” they said.
“We call on Parties at COP28 to urgently make the case for more climate finance to support adaptation for sustainable livestock systems in Africa.”
In a commentary, Kenya’s Environment Cabinet Secretary Soipan Tuya and Agnes Kalibata, President of Alliance for Green Revolution Africa, argued addressing food security and climate change will affect how the continent prospers.
“The time is now for environmental, energy and food systems experts to resolutely come together to help the continent fight hunger, and land degradation and ensure economic prosperity,” they wrote in the Business Daily.
“Our countries are up against a huge task of transforming food systems to feed people, to rehabilitate and safeguard the environment and ensure resilience to shocks caused by the ongoing climate change.