The Horn of Africa is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years, no thanks to climate change. Climate change is resulting in higher temperatures, water scarcity, droughts, floods, and other extreme weather-related events across Africa.
This is fueling the hunger crisis as decreasing harvests, and increasing food prices threaten the continent’s food systems.
Since agriculture is a major industry in Africa, climate change is causing many families to eat seasonally in order to manage their yields. As climate change reduces the amount of food produced, the amount of food people can access becomes limited. This leads to inflation and the poorest families become most vulnerable to the hike in prices.
In times when the harvest picks up, more of the yield goes to waste as the climate crisis intensifies. Crops grown in high-drought areas are often moved into humid storage facilities, leaving them vulnerable to fungal infestations and pests. Rain doesn’t always help, either: Flooding from extreme rainfalls can also produce toxic mold on crops. The more climate changes and the more that extreme climate events become commonplace, the more food we lose on an annual basis.
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, roughly one-third of the food produced by farmers is lost between the field and the market in low- and middle-income countries. In high-income countries, a similar amount is wasted between the market and the table.
This is not only resulting in hunger but also in malnutrition. Currently, the food system contributes 21–37% of greenhouse gasses, meaning that these food losses add to the climate crisis but do nothing for food security or malnutrition levels.
Studies show that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in plants reduce their protein, zinc, and iron content. By 2050, an estimated 175 million people could develop zinc deficiencies. 122 million people may be protein-deficient by that time as well.
Climate change also affects the quality of livestock, which rely on the same resources as humans to eat, grow, and produce meat, eggs, and/or milk. Cattle, goats, and other livestock accounts for 36% of all drought-related losses (crops make up 49%). Likewise, climate extremes threaten fish populations.
Climate change affects Africa’s food system leading to hunger and undernutrition. In order to end hunger, the continent needs to address the causes of climate change, particularly at the governmental and policy levels.
Climate-smart agriculture must be promoted as it will help families adapt to better crops, growing techniques, and soil improvement practices in response to climate change.
Climate justice also needs to be prioritized to support the most climate-vulnerable communities and countries that contribute little to global warming.
High-income countries whose activities are mostly responsible for global warming must take responsibility for both mitigating the causes of climate change and supporting low- and middle-income countries in adapting to its effects.