30 November 2012

Africa: Doha Negotiators Must Consider Africa's Adaptation Challenges, Says Cifor Scientist

Doha — While Africa's voice has been growing in international negotiations, more focus is needed on climate change adaptation on the continent to protect those who rely on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods, says Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) scientist Louis Verchot.

In an interview with BBC Africa on the sidelines of the United Nations climate change summit (COP18) in Doha, Qatar, Verchot, a leader of forests and climate change research at CIFOR, said that more resources are needed to adequately support adaptation in Africa.

"The empowerment of Africa in these [international climate] negotiations has really been growing over the past five, six, maybe ten years. The African voice is being heard more clearly and Africa has been much better about articulating and understanding where its interests are and pushing the climate change negotiators to pay attention to their issues," Verchot said.

"The key issue that is not being paid attention to here is adaptation to climate change ... We see many more resources being mobilised to reduce emissions and many fewer to adaptation," he said.

With approximately 70 percent of African farmers earning their livelihoods from rain-fed agriculture, the issue is critical for livelihoods, Verchot said.

"If rainfall is going to increase, they need to be able to deal with more flooding. If rainfall is going to decrease in their area, they need to be able to deal with more droughts. If there is increased variability, they need to be able to accommodate that... so they can get a harvest and get a meaningful livelihood every year out of their farming systems. And they need support in doing this."

It is not only farmers that need adaptation support. Recent CIFOR research in Cameroon has highlighted the challenges that forest communities face in adapting to climate change, which could reduce their access to food, medicinal plants and firewood. The research highlights the need for policymakers to consider these vulnerable groups when forming adaptation strategies.

CIFOR's Congo Basin and Climate Change Adaptation (CoFCCA) project has also reached out to communities to discover the impacts that climatic change is having on agriculture and livelihoods in the Congo Basin forests.

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