Food Insecurity in Africa and China’s contribution to climate change

By News Diggers

Zambia’s Minister of Finance and National Planning, Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane has observed that food security has become a serious problem in Africa because of climate change.

Speaking during a panel discussion at the 2023 annual meetings of the African Development Bank in Egypt, Thursday, Dr Musokotwane said parts of the African continent recorded food shortages due to climate change.

Dr Situmbeko Musokoywane: “There’s the issue of food security as a result of climate change. Right now in the region, part of Africa, we have a serious problem. I think we all recall the flooding that took place in Malawi, the droughts that have been taking place in East Africa and so forth. So, there is food shortage here, food deficit. What is it that we can do at household level to try and mitigate the ability of the ordinary villager to deal with these disasters.

Obviously, the answer is what people did in Egypt 4000 years ago, how to irrigate. What can we do now to create a viable irrigation mechanism so that people can make sure they can irrigate when there’s a shortfall of water? We have to come to the assistance of our people”.

The statement made by Dr Musokotwane regarding the dire state of food security in Africa due to climate change resonates with the harsh realities faced by many nations on the continent. Indeed, climate change has emerged as a formidable threat, jeopardising the very foundation of sustenance for millions of Africans, including those in Zimbabwe.

The floods that left a national disaster in Malawi earlier this year are examples of how Africa is paying the price for climate change instigated by rich and powerful countries.

Zambia, a landlocked country, has experienced firsthand the adverse impacts of climate change on its agricultural sector. Erratic rainfall patterns, prolonged droughts, and increased occurrences of extreme weather events have wreaked havoc on the continent’s food production. The agricultural backbone of Africa, heavily reliant on rain-fed farming, has been severely disrupted, leading to diminished crop yields, reduced grazing land, and an alarming rise in food insecurity.

Zambia, for example, came close to recording food riots a month ago during an acute shortage of its staple food – mealie meal.

Maize is also Zimbabwe’s staple food but is prone to drought and its price has shot up by over 50 per cent in recent years, subjecting millions of Zimbabweans to potential starvation.

While climate change is a global phenomenon, it is crucial to acknowledge the role of major contributors and the steps being taken to mitigate the impact. This brings China into focus. China’s industrial growth and carbon-intensive practices have undeniably and significantly contributed to the acceleration of climate change. Africa, including Zambia and its neighbouring countries – Malawi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Angola, Congo DR, Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique, bear the brunt of these consequences despite their comparatively minimal contributions to global emissions.

In fact, according to the European Union’s Joint Research Centre, China is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, with 11, 680 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2020. This accounts for over 32 per cent of the world’s total emissions. This is quite a high volume, considering that, by the same study, the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide, which is The United States of America, accounts for about 4, 535 metric tons. Clearly, China’s carbon emission footprint is miles ahead and getting wider. This must be a source of concern for African countries.

It is unfair that the largest emitter of greenhouse gas is technically exempted from the “Loss and Damage Fund” negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). According to “China Dialogue”, this is so because China is simultaneously a developing country.

Its “developing country” status means that according to the UNFCCC’s principle of “common but differentiated responsibility”, it is not obligated to pay into the fund.

This makes China the richest ‘developing country’ with the second largest economy in the world and also the biggest culprit when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions. At the COP27 conference, China negotiated alongside other developing countries to call for developed countries to provide financial compensation on climate change damage. 

This is quite ironic, considering that China’s emissions volume and economic status continue to grow rapidly. Maybe it’s time that real developing countries isolated China from among them and challenged the Asian economic giant to take responsibility for its contributions to climate change.

To address the challenge of food security in the face of climate change, actual developing countries like Zimbabwe, Malawi and others that are paying the highest price must prod China to take up a significant portion of the climate change compensation fund under the UN climate framework.  

China can do many things to help climate-vulnerable countries deal with the loss and damage caused by climate change. Humanitarian aid, debt relief and technology transfer are some of the contributions that China could consider.

As the governments of poor countries promote drought-resistant crop varieties, efficient irrigation systems, and agroforestry techniques that enhance soil health and water conservation, the culprits of greenhouse emissions must be doing more to demonstrate their strategies on climate change remedy. 

China should join the United States in providing financial and technological support to African countries under this cause. This assistance can aid in the development of climate-resilient infrastructure, climate-smart agriculture, and capacity-building initiatives. The solution to climate change and the mitigation initiative should not exclude those that are directly responsible for the highest emission of greenhouse gases.

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