Is adaptation to climate change forgotten in Central Africa?

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (23 August, 2011)_Where does Central Africa stand in the adaptation process? The answer is not really apparent after reading recent UNFCCC reports on the contribution of the Nairobi Work Program towards advancing the adaptation process. Mentions of adaptation actions, activities on the ground or presentation of case studies in Central African countries are really shaky, if not non-existent.
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Photo by Daniel Tiveau/CIFOR

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (23 August, 2011)_Where does Central Africa stand in the adaptation process? The answer is not really apparent after reading recent reports of the UNFCCC on the contribution of the Nairobi Work Program over the last five years towards advancing the adaptation process. Mentions of adaptation actions, activities on the ground or presentation of case studies in Central African countries are really shaky, if not non-existent.

At its thirty-fourth session last June 2011, the SBSTA welcomed a report on the progress made in implementing activities under the Nairobi Work Programme on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change. On the 26 case studies highlighting results obtained and lessons learned on freshwater issues, only three projects concern countries in Central Africa, all in Cameroon.

Another representative example is the AIACC initiative (Assessments of Impacts and Adaptation to Climate Change) developed in collaboration with UNEP and IPCC and funded by the Global Environment Facility: among its studies in 46 developing countries, none is in the six Congo Basin Countries.

Lack of visibility of Congo Basin needs for adaptation can become problematic. In particular for allocating funds, countries have to show and demonstrate their vulnerabilities. The occurrence of extreme unusual climatic event and its coverage in media can suddenly arouse interest for adaptation as illustrates recent event in the Great Horn of Africa. In the forest areas of the Congo Basin, climatic threats are less sticking than in other part of Africa. Opportunity or curse?

Yet, one cannot deny that climate variability and change is an issue in the Congo Basin. Congo Basin countries have clear dependency on climate sensitive sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, fishery and low adaptive capacity. Climate variability, climate change and market instabilities (e.g, ore, coffee and cocoa) increase social and economic insecurity in the region.

In the Congo Basin, the focus has been on mitigation rather than adaptation.  However, a total of US$9.5 million have been granted to Cameroon, Republic of Congo and Gabon by the government of Japan to assist those countries in implementing integrated and comprehensive adaptation actions and resilience plans.

In addition to that, DRC benefits from US$7.1 million for building the capacity of the agriculture sector from a climate change perspective. Compared to US$13 million approved by the World Band project from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to strengthen the capacities of the Congo Basin countries on issues related to REDD+, adaptation seems to gain ground on mitigation in Central Africa. But after a thorough look, it seems that most of the adaptation actions do not concern forest issues and forest areas.

Charlotte Pavageau is a consultant at CIFOR’s Cameroon office. 

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