One of the first orders of the day at the Africa Editors Climate Forum, which took place on 19-20 June, was to go around the room, asking delegates, journalists and editors from across Africa, to share a short personal observation of how the changing climate has affected them or their home country.
Elvis Maramba, communications specialist and a native of western Kenya, close to the tropical Kakamega Forests said that the “massive destruction of indigenous, virgin forest has resulted in a huge decline in precipitation and offset regular rainfall patterns.”
This has, in turn, resulted in a decrease in food production in the region leaving farmers with very little and locals having to source alternatives which are usually much more expensive than local foods.
Speaking at the conference, Ozayr Patel, climate and sustainability editor at the Mail & Guardian said that “the changing climate is a stark reminder of the challenges we are faced with as a continent.”
“Between the harsh weather such as the flood we’ve experienced over the last few years across South Africa, the extended La Niña and the incoming El Niño phenomena, my family are considering alternative water sources such as installing a water tank or drilling a borehole and possibly an air conditioner for the anticipated heatwaves,” Patel said.
Gambia, like other West African and Sahel countries is experiencing serious challenges in relation to climate change. Bab Cham of the Gambia Radio and Television Service noted that “this is clear from the negative impacts in the form of environmental degradation that had led to declining soil fertility, salinity as well as erosion and deforestation including mangrove dieback.”
Cham added that there are also numerous other consequences such as desertification, loss of biodiversity and the destruction of the ecosystem base.
Hailing from the Kenyan county of Kajiado, editor and radio presenter, Tom Julio, said that Kajiado was one of the regions hardest hit by the East African drought.
“As a family, we had to raise funds to help our father buy hay for our cows. I asked him once, ‘Dad, why don’t you just sell some of the cows to reduce the burden? And he said, I already tried that, but the prices I was getting, I said to hell with it; I would rather struggle with them.’”
Julio later learned that some herdsmen were selling their cows for as little as Sh1,000 (R128). Overall, 2.6 million livestock died during the drought, greatly diminishing livelihoods.
“It will take a long time for Kenya and other East African countries to recover from this. I think we need to build resilience because climate change is only getting worse,” Julio concluded.
Kofi Adu Domfeh, Ghanaian-based journalist and Climate Reality Leader said that one of the most pressing climate change impacts facing Ghana today is the massive decrease of the nation's fish stocks which have placed millions at risk of hunger and malnutrition.
“In the past, the catch from just a single trip out to sea would be in the tons, now we are seeing catches amounting to less than half of that. As sea temperatures have increased, schools of fish are moving further away from the shoreline to deeper, cooler waters,” Domfeh said.
Ghana, like many other coastal nations around the world, rely on commercial and subsistence fishing to feed millions of people but experts predict that, due to decades of unsustainable fishing practices and warming oceans, the Earth will have depleted its viable fish stocks by 2050.