AfDB Study Foresees Risk of 50 Percent Loss of Africa’s Rain-fed Agriculture by 2020 Due to Climate Change & Ethiopia’s Response By By Keffyalew Gebremedhin

December 24th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

The AfDB’s end of year warning is unstinting. It claims that rain-fed agricultural yields of some African countries could be reduced by as much as 50 percent by 2020, unless adequate attention is paid to adaptation to climate change, accompanied with “good gender analysis in planning and following through, and good data to assist the development of policy.”

Not surprisingly, even Ethiopian officials have included this as part of their worst case scenario, which in 25 years foresees the country facing only half the potential of total GDP it could attain. However, in both instances, i.e., AfDB’s and Ethiopia’s worst case scenario, I take the view that, while the AfDB study may be statistically correct it is rationally imperfect, since such a huge percentage loss appears exaggerated — most of all given that 95 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s agriculture is rain-fed. No deity would be as cruel or man’s instinct for self-preservation allow punishment of this magnitude to come to pass on an already suffering continent. That said, nonetheless, I must hasten to add that the study’s insight and Ethiopia’s response show human survival instinct at its best.

AfDB’s warning is contained in a recently completed study entitled Gender, Poverty and Environmental Indicators on African Countries. Its aim is to enable the AfDB support the adaptation capacities of African states to climate change. In that context, the study provides some information on the broad development trends relating to gender poverty and environmental issues in the 53 countries of the region.

The information contained in the report is a good indicator of the level of preparedness/unpreparedness of the 53 African countries to withstand climate change. For the AfDB, it is a reflection of its appreciation of the vital linkages between climate change and gender inequality. That recognition is described as follows:

On the one hand, climate change slows progress towards gender equality and poses a challenge to poverty reduction efforts; on the other hand, gender inequality can further worsen the effects of climate change. Consequently, gender mainstreaming must be seen not only as an aspect that requires special attention when conducting activities to mitigate climate risks but also as an important factor in adaptation to ensure success and sustainability of projects.

AfDB’s case is founded on the assumption that climate change has specific effects on women and men. In examining the disparities that exist within society because of the different social positions of women within the family and the community, the bank’s action plan anticipates that climate change would “affect those factors that are most essential for protecting women’s means of subsistence (food, water and energy supply).”

In other words, change can alter the allocation of tasks and time, thereby affecting men and women differently. The example the publication gives is of water stress, “decreasing the time available to women for food production and preparation as well as participation in income-generating activities will likely affect household food security and nutritional well-being.”

Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s response is the boastful CRGEvision —an ambitious $150 billion war chest against climate change encased in what it called a Climate Resilient Green Economy — zero-carbon growth economy over the next two decades. This Ethiopian response was announced at the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 7th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (CMP7) to the Kyoto Protocol in Durban, South Africa, held from 28 November – 9 December 2011.

In simple terms, the AfDB study’s pivotal conclusion is the important role women play in food production, livestock care, fetching firewood and water and household chores. UN data show that in over a quarter of the households in 14 out of 30 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa each water collection trip takes more than 30 minutes. This task is seen imposing heavy economic and social costs in terms of the time that otherwise could be used for education of girls and women’s employment.

Put briefly, the disproportionate amount of daily time and efforts women and young girls expend gathering solid fuels and water for household chores could have been used for other income-producing activities, family subsistence, or education, according to this study. In this study and in all its considerations, what has come out stark clearly is that ten African countries have become extremely vulnerable to climate change.


Those ten countries are identified using the Tyndall Center concept of social vulnerability to climate change-induced changes in water availability. The Tyndall social vulnerability index is an overall weighted average of a number of composite elements that include economic wellbeing and stability (20%), demographic structure (20%), institutional stability and strength of public infrastructure (40%), global interconnectivity (10%) and dependence on natural resources (10%).

These ten countries are Niger (37%), Sierra Leone (62%), Burundi (46%) percent, Burkina Faso (48%), Madagascar (54%), Uganda (50%), Ethiopia (46%), Mauritania (54%), Lesotho (67%) and Tanzania (55%). The numbers in the bracket relate to the share of women in agricultural labor force.

Although in the case of Ethiopia the share of women in agricultural work force is 46 percent, according to this study, the country’s relative vulnerability under the different indices varies relative to the nine other most vulnerable countries. For instance, under the overall social vulnerability index, Ethiopia is 7th out of 10; 4th in natural resources dependency index, and 8th in the institutional strength and public infrastructure index.

The publication reverts to forecasts by the International Panel on Climate Change to underline that by 2020 between 75 and 250 million people in Africa are likely to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change. In that connection, it predicts that by 2020 in some countries yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 percent.

That is to say that agricultural production including access to food in many African countries could be compromised and that this would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition. The other side of this is that, seven decades from now 5-8 percent of Africa’s lands could become arid and semi-arid.


Ethiopia’s CRGEVison is focussed on agriculture, transport, industry, energy, health and environmental resources such as water, soil, land, forests and biodiversity. Then the national adaptation to climate change program (EPACC) aims to build a climate resilient economy through adaptation at sectoral, regional and local community levels. As regards, action, it is reported that the Ethiopian approach would focus on the elimination of poverty as a basis for “laying the foundation for a climate resilient path towards sustainable development”, employing ten-pronged approach whose individual components are:

★ Involving the whole population in planning and implementation of adaptation to climate change.
★ Forecasting climate change through country-level and sub-country level climate change modeling.
★ Identifying and preventing worsening and emerging human diseases.
★ Identifying and preventing worsening and emerging animal diseases.
★ and prevent worsening and emerging crop and wildland plant diseases and pests.
★ Preventing land degradation and thus reducing soil loss to its natural equilibrium rate of equaling the rate of soil formation from bedrock.
★ Reduce biodiversity loss to achieve an equilibrium with the natural rate of diversification.
★ Prevent biomass and soil nutrient accumulation in urban areas as waste by taking the waste back to farmlands as fertilizer.
★ Countering the agricultural productivity reduction that emanates from climate change through effective research and development.
★ water effectively to make it always available to humans, animals and crops.
To carry out all these activities funding is of paramount importance. The Ethiopian CRGEVision speaks of CRGE Facility to be established at the end of 2011. Its tasks would be to attract funding from international climate finance, leveraging both public and private finance from both multilateral and bilateral sources. The CRGEVision states:

Ideally, climate finance will complement other forms of investment to bolster Ethiopia’s core climate-compatible development activities (in areas such as food security, energy, infrastructure development and natural resources management). We are also looking at the possibility of having a results-based / performance-based mechanism for allocating finance.
At least initially, the CRGE Facility’s fiduciary risk and financial management functions will be provided by UNDP. However, the medium-term objective will be to handover these responsibilities to a permanent national institution.

The CRGE Facility will administer a multi-donor trust fund (MDTF). To maximise aid effectiveness, and facilitate a shift from a project to a programme approach, it is hoped that Ethiopia’s development partners will increasingly channel their bilateral climate funds through the MDTF.

It is reported on the international media that the UK and Norway are already at the forefront in Durban to target Ethiopia as their climate financing project. It would be recalled that Chris Huhne, British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, hinted in Durban saying “Ethiopia is one of the areas in the world that will suffer first from the effects of global warming.

In the case of Norway, the December 23 issue of Development Today (DT) reported: A multi-year pledge to Ethiopia’s low-carbon strategy – likely to exceed NOK 1 billion [about $170 million] can make the country a top African recipient in the Norwegian aid portfolio.” This interprets annually to roughly $6o million.

This Norwegian support is part of Energy+, an initiative launched in Oslo earlier this year, according to DT. It aims to contribute toward universal energy access by 2030, using aid funds to leverage private sector investments for projects in developing countries. In this context, one has to bear in mind that Norway has strong interest in the Ethiopian energy sector. While its offer is great and appreciable, it would be governed by the principle of no free lunch, for which Ethiopia’s pay would be in terms of businesses for Norwegian companies.

While the UK had not as yet announced any additional to the overall annual envelope of $512 million, the nature of cooperation between the two countries has an already existing modality in the UK’s operational plan in Ethiopia for 2011-2015, which states “increasing resilience to changing weather patterns and leveraging the financial and low-carbon growth opportunities presented by climate change.” As in the case of Norway, there would be no free lunch since the UK has for a while has kept its eyes open, on behalf of its companies, focussed on the $150 billion Ethiopia is expected to spend on infrastructural development referred to above.

I am optimistic about the measures underway, lest, as usual the regime’s politicized approach to development complicates the situation.

Recognition of the dangers arising from climate change for Ethiopia and fully cognizant of the country’s potentials for trade development and economic cooperation, members of the international community are showing willingness to help Ethiopia sharpen its resilience in the face of climate change, as one of the ten top most vulnerable countries in Africa.

A grateful nation would pay back this by empowering its people and ensuring their human security and dignity in all their forms — broad economic and social benefits, equal opportunities for all and improved income equality, respect for fundamental human rights, the rule of law and democratic governance in which individual citizens enjoy a sense of security and equality before the law!

  1. aha!
    | #1

    The first order of business for Ethipia and Ethiopians is to restore individual freedom, liberty and equality to supecede ethnic and secessionist rights, restore Ethiopian Nationalism, Ethiopian National Interests and the the Sovereignity of Ethiopia. Upon creating an environment for capitalism and democracy based on individual freedom, liberty and equality under the new constitution, the silent majority will participate in revitalization progroms of the country by ecological regions as the North and central High lands, the low land arid and semi arid Rift valley proper of the nomad pastoral lands, the Eastern and south Eastern Highlands, the the south and western sub-humid subtopical Savannah type region, all of which are proportionately affected by climate change with alternate droughts and floods. To that end Ethiopia had been affected by both droughts and floods. With the current regime there is no short and long term mitigation programs for both conditions, both in terms of mitigating after flood and drought incidences and proactive measures in terms of food production irrigated farm crops and storing them in a granery, other to solicit for bulky food items from the Western donor countries, to say the least the constitutional frame work of ethnic ferederalism, secessionism and totaliarinism does not allow for the silent majority to participate in a capitalistic and democratic economic system with the availability of land and capital as the means of production in the western democracies.

    While flood and loss of soil and water can be met with a revitalization program of reafforestation and croping system and farming practices and ecosytems management approach to farming can address the the ten point concerns for Africa, there is deficieciency even for developing drought and frost tolerant plants, let alone subsequent severe droughts. That incidence had to be be mitigated with locally producing grains uner irrigation with the long term development aid allotted to Ethiopia, in particular, to substitute the humanitarian aid of imported food supply by private and/or government ventures, but not not from the lease lands to foreighn corporations, which is shipped abroad, while degradeding the natural resources to a more desertification process. Even for the government and the private farmers internally, ecosystem managent approach to farming need to be adopted as part of the national policy.

    I believe these ideas will promote adaptations to climate cange improve food production, and there by food security and install programs for mitigating food shortages following droughts and floods.

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