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‘Climate change could render Sudan uninhabitable'

December 11 - 2016 DABANGA SUDAN
A cloud of dust known as haboob in Sudan nears Khartoum (AFP)
A cloud of dust known as haboob in Sudan nears Khartoum (AFP)

Experts say that without quick intervention, parts of Sudan could become uninhabitable as a result of climate change.

“North Africa is already hot and is strongly increasing in temperature. At some point in this century, part of the region will become uninhabitable," Jos Lelieveld, a climate scientist from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, told CNN.

Much of Sudan has become progressively unsuitable for agriculture and villages, as a result of the hotter climate and erratic rainfall, Bianca Britton wrote in an updated report at the CNN site on Thursday.

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), irregular rain has ruined crops, and the country is experiencing both droughts and floods - making arable land unsuitable for cultivation and displacing more than 600,000 people due to flood-related disasters since 2013.

This burden is affecting not only the country's food security and sustainable development, but also the homes of many Sudanese families. It is estimated 1.9 million people will be affected by reduced agricultural and livestock production -- due to smaller farming areas, poor pastures and limited water availability.

Vulnerable

Michelle Yonetani, a senior advisor on disasters from IDMC, says 70 per cent of the rural population are reliant on traditional rain-fed agriculture -for both food and livelihood- while 80 per cent of the population rely on rainfall for their water supply.

She told CNN that Sudan was facing a “hugely complex emergency situation.

“Drought aggravates desertification which affects the savannah belt in the northern region - so these encroaching deserts have been displacing entire villages.”

Yonetani said Sudan was one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change because of the issue of food security -- it ranks 98th out of 113 countries on the Global Hunger Index, placing it in the top 15 most food-insecure countries in the world.

“Communities who are already very vulnerable -who are already suffering from impoverishment, who may be in areas that may be affected by climate change- are pushed to the limits of their coping mechanisms,” she said.

National Adaptation Plan

To make a lasting impact against climate change, holistic adaptation and mitigation efforts need to target farmers, pastoralist communities, as well as vulnerable groups who are affected by the food insecurity.

The government released a renewable National Adaptation Plan in July this year which published agreed strategies to protect Sudanese people - particularly those in rural communities.

The Sudanese Ministry of Environment has broken down adaptation plans for each region of Sudan. Strategies include drought resistant crop varieties that can withstand shifting climate conditions, more efficient irrigation technologies and improved crop storage.

“It's a very positive sign that there is a political commitment,” the head of programmes for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Sudan, Marco Cavalcante, said.

He added that crop storage was important to ensure farmers are not forced to sell immediately after harvesting when the price may be low. He also said that because of the variability in climatic conditions, farmers may experience a good harvest one year and a bad one the next. So by improving crop storage, they can “ensure income for the following year”.

The national plan also outlined plans to dig more wells and boreholes to alleviate water scarcity.

The WFP also has helped Sudan construct hafeers (water reservoirs) to help retain water and boost crop yields in years of poor rainfall. Communities are also being taught how to plant trees to help combat desertification which Cavalcante says has “a substantial impact” on Sudan's future.

Health is also a large focus of the government's adaptation plan. It says climate change could accelerate the spread of malaria, yellow fever and cholera - and while investment into education to ensure humans are more resilient to climatic shocks is important, there also needs to be research into the link between rising temperatures, water stress. and the spread of those diseases, the CNN report reads.


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