Why ecosystem-based adaptation is key to a resilient Africa

ecosystem-based adaptation - climateaction

Why ecosystem-based adaptation is key to a resilient Africa

The 2021 Global Hunger Index (GHI) points to severe hunger situations which are caused by a number of factors, one of them being climate change.

In Africa, climate change has established a new normal where extreme weather events like severe heatwaves, droughts, and devastating floods, have significantly impacted food production thereby worsening food and nutrition security across the continent.

This has caused a great imbalance in the continent’s rural ecosystem, leading to hunger, poverty, and putting immense strain on natural resources, especially productive land and groundwater.

Beyond poor food production and food insecurity due to extreme weather events like droughts or floods which – sometimes, wipe out the entire seasonal output of these communities, – farms also experience income losses.

These losses directly impact the livelihoods of millions of rural communities, especially in the underprivileged and marginalized regions.

The global goal on adaptation at the COP26 includes a focus on protecting and restoring ecosystems by strengthening agriculture, protecting livelihoods and lives. Unfortunately, ecosystems in rural areas that provide primary support to the poor, are highly degraded.

And because these communities have limited options per resources and they have immediate needs to meet, they are forced to take short-sighted measures to fulfill those needs, thereby causing extensive damage to themselves and the environment.

It is for this reason that ecosystem-based adaptation is recommended to build the resilience and adaptive capacities of these communities to cope with environmental changes and weather uncertainties through biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Ecosystem-based adaptation is a low-cost, nature-based, and pro-poor strategic tool that has the potential to sustainably transform the rural ecosystem.

It revives and restores the natural landscape and promotes traditional and eco-friendly practices while also providing a comprehensive approach that helps strengthen the capabilities of these communities, boosts their local livelihoods, promotes their health and well-being, and fosters inclusive and equitable participation.

The impact of ecosystem-based adaptation is far-reaching as the ripple effects of a thriving rural community will extend to the urban society and will significantly contribute to national and international sustainable development goals.

Since ecosystems ensure food and water security, enhance soil fertility, promote biodiversity, and mitigate natural disasters like floods and drought, it is of utmost importance to restore them if we hope to hasten the process of tackling rural poverty.

However, restoring the ecosystem and adapting to climate change is not a walk in the park. It requires strategic and consistent long-term efforts.

And because the climate challenges of rural communities differ in terms of size and scale, there is a need for diverse stakeholders – individuals, institutions, governments, civil society organizations, businesses, academia, financial institutions, funds, NGOs, and the media – to collaborate and work cohesively to drive and integrate the ecosystem-based adaptation approach in all the development initiatives across Africa.

This should also include pooling resources – human, material, and financial – and empowering communities to improve their income while they conserve local biodiversity, restore and sustainably manage their natural resources.

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