Empower EA communities to beat climate change crisis
The quote "Failure to plan is planning to fail", often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, remains timeless and relevant in various contexts. In the context of the recent Africa Climate Summit, it underscores the importance of proactive planning and preparedness in addressing climate change and its associated challenges. During the inaugural African Climate Summit, hosted by Nairobi in September, the Heads of State and Government emphasized the crucial requirement for significant funds to address the escalating environmental challenges. African nations secured climate funding agreements amounting to a significant $23 billion after calling for a restructuring of the global financial system to better align with Africa's requirements and in the journey to making the continent a renewable energy superpower. COP28 begins next week in Dubai. A gathering of climate delegations is expected to chart a way forward since the impacts of climate change, especially in East Africa, have reached unprecedented levels of severity and scope. This year will go down as the hottest ever with one in three days surpassing the 1.5 degrees Celcius threshold laid out in the Paris Agreement. Recent events, such as the floods in various cities in Somalia (including Baidoa, Doolow and Galkacyo), resulting in the displacement of over half a million residents; displacement of more than 110 people in the coastal cities of Mombasa and Kwale in Kenya; and the hundreds of houses swept away in Ethiopia due to unrelenting rainfall in Gambella and Afar, along with the loss of more than 130 lives in the East African region, vividly highlight the devastating effects of climate change in East African countries. These effects underscore the urgent need for climate finance, a concern consistently emphasized by East African Heads of State. However, it raises the question: Is money the sole solution to these pressing challenges? While many countries, particularly in Africa, often lack the financial resources and infrastructure to effectively address climate change (and climate finance is a critical aspect of addressing climate change), a looming question lies in my mind: How about empowering communities in the conversation about climate change? Amid discussions on climate financing, green energy and sustainable cities, have we given due attention to empowering communities, the frontline actors in the battle against climate change? To set a background to my questions, agriculture is the lifeblood of Africa's livelihoods and the backbone of national economies, supporting over 55 per cent of the continent's labour force. However, since 1961, agricultural productivity growth has decreased by 34 per cent due to climate change, the highest decline anywhere. The drought has directly affected 50 million people in and around the Horn of Africa with another 100 million in and around the wider region facing acute food insecurity and the threat of famine. To be able to tackle this shared threat effectively, East Africa will need to adopt a collaborative approach that centres on empowering local communities. Empowering local communities is, then, a cornerstone to sustainable and impactful climate action. Their resilience, traditional knowledge and ability to adapt and often bear the brunt of climate-related challenges—including extreme weather events, changing agricultural patterns and environmental degradation—are invaluable assets that need to be recognised and harnessed. It is essential for communities in Africa to have global climate discussions. This entails the creation of platforms for community involvement in decision-making processes, integrating local knowledge into climate policies and initiatives that are common/local people-focused. Some of the strategies include, one, education and awareness to ensures active participation in climate initiatives and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Two, cross-border collaborations to ensure the utilisation of shared resources, research and joint initiatives. And, three, community-based adaptation (CBA) strategies and initiatives to enhance adaptive capacities and promote sustainable development. The resilience of East African communities in the face of climate change relies on a collective and community-centred approach. This can be further enhanced by embracing community-driven initiatives, preserving indigenous knowledge, promoting education and fostering regional collaboration. It is by amplifying the voices of those most impacted by climate change through community empowerment that East Africa will move a step closer to combating the effects of climate change. As we approach COP28, leaders need to recognise that community involvement serves as a crucial catalyst; this not only bridges the gaps between policy-makers, scientists and citizens but also paves the way for an integrated approach to combating climate change that considers the combination of social factors, ecological and economic factors and their contribution to an effective strategy. COP 28 provides an opportune moment to not only prioritise and implement community-driven solutions but also ensure a collective and sustainable effort in the global fight against climate change. Failure to empower communities obstructs their advancement, thus pushing millions into a cycle of vulnerability, and has led to lower socioeconomic development and jeopardises the attainment of sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Africa.