CLIMATE CRISIS | Call for renewed attention to desertification in Africa amid wars in Ukraine and Gaza

by MMC
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African delegates attending a meeting of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in Uzbekistan between November 13 and 17 said conflicts around the world, such as the war between Israel and Hamas and the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have diverted the world’s attention from other important issues. issues such as desertification and the effects of climate change in Africa.

Delegates told DW that funds intended for projects aimed at mitigating desertification in Africa were being diverted to Israel and Ukraine.

Nigerian delegate Habiba Ibrahim castigated world leaders for neglecting environmental issues and desertification, which are “a reality in Africa”, she said. “They don’t pay enough attention to it,” Ibrahim told DW, “because when you have issues of ongoing conflicts in the world, your mind tends to go there.” Ibrahim warned that the world should not wait to act until disaster strikes.

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Gambian delegate Muhammed Jaitey feared that the promised funds would not be disbursed soon. “Unfortunately, the world’s attention is now divided. Most of the funds were diverted to solve other problems, like the Gaza war and the Ukraine-Russia war, which affect all countries,” Jaitey told DW. He lamented the growing lack of unity among countries to combat drought and other climate-related problems. “If I met them (world leaders), I would tell them to pay more attention to land degradation and desertification,” Jaitey added.

Desertification is getting out of control

Recent data provided by the UNCCD shows that the world loses nearly 100 million hectares of healthy, productive land each year.

The Executive Secretary of the Convention, Ibrahim Thiaw, said in a statement that “the droughts, wildfires and heat waves we have witnessed around the world are symptoms of the worsening and interdependence of climatic and natural crises, with the land being at the heart of both.” Thiaw urged the international community to stop land degradation, noting that since 2015, a total of four million square kilometers of land have been lost.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 110 million people in Africa have been directly affected by weather, climate and water-related hazards in 2022, causing damages of more than 8 .5 billion dollars (7.7 billion euros). . From the Central African Republic to Somalia and Sudan, fragile states are suffering more than other countries from floods, droughts, storms and other climate-related shocks, according to UN agencies.

How African countries are coping with desertification

Habiba Ibrahim said her country Nigeria was taking many measures to prevent desertification. “We must do this,” she said, because “more of our land, especially almost all of Nigeria’s 20 northern states, is affected by desertification, drought and land degradation. land”. All this has a direct negative impact on the lives and food security of Nigerians, she added.

To prevent conflicts between farmers and herders, which have intensified due to desertification, the Nigerian government has also created grazing reserves for nomadic herders, Ibrahim explained.

In The Gambia, community gardens have been created, with the aim of planting at least one million trees per year. “In the garden, residents create nurseries for the plants which, once mature, are transferred to the forest reserves. Planted trees capture carbon released into the atmosphere, which is the main cause of global warming,” Jaitey said.

As is the case in other countries on the continent, population growth in The Gambia is also contributing to deforestation. Currently, 40 percent of The Gambia’s land area is still covered by forests. But people will cut down trees to grow crops and build shelters, Jaitey pointed out.

In Burkina Faso, the government of Captain Ibrahim Traoré, led by the junta, is fighting against desertification, particularly in regions controlled by jihadist groups. Like other countries in the Sahel, Burkina Faso is seriously affected by land degradation, sandstorms and drought.

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Dambatia Lazare, from Burkina Faso, told DW that her country’s authorities are “developing strategies and concrete actions to combat desertification by developing technological packages in agriculture, livestock and natural resource management.” . For political reasons, he refused to go into detail about what the junta-led government is doing to combat desertification.

More money is needed

Despite being responsible for only a fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions, Africa suffers disproportionately from climate change. A recent report reveals that there is a $366 billion gap in financing the fight against climate change, making the world even more vulnerable to extreme weather events.

“Resources must be mobilized to act against drought, desertification and hunger,” Jaitey said. Despite the efforts made by different African countries, without adequate funding, desertification cannot be avoided, he said.

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