Wednesday, February 01, 2023
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Climate Change Adaptation: What to do after COP 27 in the Somali Regions

By Hussien Mohamed Yusuf

In its First Assessment Report in 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that the gravest effects of climate change may be those on adaptation or coping with the adverse impacts. Over the last decade, some progress has been made within both the academic and the humanitarian policy community in seeking answers to some basic questions arising from this issue, such as how do communities adapt and how (if at all) are they protected from such adverse climatic impacts.

The 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) provides the common international framework to address the causes and consequences of climate change. In 2007, the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC authoritatively established that human-induced climate change is accelerating and already has severe impacts on the environment and human lives.

Climate change IDPs

The horn of Africa region, specifically, the Somali inhibiting area is one of the most food-insecure regions in the world. Prolonged and widespread drought is a recurrent feature of the arid and semi-arid lands that is exacerbated by climate change, advancing desertification and ecological degradation. These harsh ecological circumstances contribute to severe hardships among the affected communities including dislocation, poverty, persistent hunger and conflicts within and across boundaries in the region.

In addition to the recurrent natural and human-induced shocks from which vulnerable populations currently suffer, climate research predicts an increase in the frequency, severity and extent of extreme weather events in the region. In combination with political, economic and conflict-related shocks, these events threaten livelihoods and food and nutrition security, undermining development gains and eroding resilience to future shocks. This is particularly evident in countries or areas where government systems are unable to provide adequate support to those affected.

The intensity and frequency of climate-driven natural disasters and conflicts are increasing. One drought will follow another, every time stripping away the limited assets of poor and vulnerable people, robbing them of their self-reliance and wounding their humanity and dignity. Across the region, expanding needs, competing priorities and limited resources mean that timely and effective interventions are essential to ensure that the impacts of droughts are limited before they can grow into even more costly humanitarian disasters

Climatic shocks across the Eastern Africa region has been increasing in terms of both severity and frequency during recent years, aggravated by desertification, land degradation. In the Horn’s Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL), pastoralism and agro pastoralism are the dominant livelihood systems, for which pasture and water scarcity is a constant challenge. Pastoralists and agro pastoralists are among the most affected by what has become a chronic vulnerability to food insecurity, economic and environmental shocks, and intercommunal resource-based conflicts.

Climate change and the combined effects of soil erosion and reduced vegetation cover/deforestation is also leading to biodiversity loss with its longer consequences of loss of indigenous knowledge and information systems on pastoral production and natural resource management, veterinary knowledge, weather forecasting etc.

Consecutive droughts have led to chronic water scarcity across the area, leading to acute water crises. Though indirectly, climate change is perceived to have led to the erosion of traditional institutions and the overall disorientation of environmental governance, leading to environmental degradation and increased conflicts, especially on land. As competition for resources increase, equally conflicts arise between and among herders, charcoal producers and wildlife. Climate change has also exacerbated human-animal conflicts. The scarcity of wild foods and pasture is driving these animals to adopt aggressive grazing and food collection habits which bring them into conflict with humans. As a result of climate change, pastoralists’ way of life is undergoing great transformation and the trend is moving towards higher vulnerability, loss of solidarity mechanisms for coping with droughts, destitution and dropping off from pastoral life.

Experts in this area recommend a number of policy options and strategies towards climate change. They also propose need for policy advocacy at national and international levels on climate change issues as well as increasing efficiency and productivity in water use; soil conservation and flood reduction; sustainable agriculture; promoting economic diversification and alternative livelihoods. There is also the need for research and development of innovative solutions to the challenges affecting pastoralism.

The other major areas of intervention needed to adapt to the climate change include, among others, early actions to be implemented before the drought negatively impacts livelihoods and the food security and nutrition status of affected households. Rapid response actions, implemented to protect assets and ensure access to food.

The Need for a Well Planned Climate Change adaptation in the Horn of Africa

Adapting to climate change entails taking the right measures to reduce the negative effects of climate change (or exploit the positive ones) by making the appropriate adjustments and changes. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) defines adaptation as adjustments in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities. It also refers to actions that people, countries, and societies take to adjust to climate change that has occurred. Adaptation has three possible objectives: to reduce exposure to the risk of damage; to develop the capacity to cope with unavoidable damages; and to take advantage of new opportunities.

A recently published USAID report indicates that Regional adaptation priorities have not been articulated. However, examination of NAPAs (National Adaptation Plan of Actions) and other equivalent country documents indicates that national adaptation priorities tend to focus on the areas of agriculture and food security, water resources, forests, disaster response, livelihoods, health, energy, and coastal zones. Given the transboundary nature of a number of the region’s river basins as well as forest, coastal, and marine ecosystems, regional coordination will be required to ensure long-term sustainable management of these resources. Developing a regional strategy and action plan may help to achieve this by defining and clearly laying out agreed regional priorities as well as identifying concrete steps for implementing activities that support them. A strategy may also help to inform the creation of a portfolio of projects that can be marketed to donors and other potential investors, and serve as the foundation for a regional platform for dialogue and coordinated response to climate change impacts.

Major Areas to focus on Climate adaptations in the Horn of Africa Region

Adaptation to climate change is a major issue in the current food security discourse.  Livelihoods in the horn of Africa countries that depend on agriculture are particularly vulnerable to changes in the mean and variability of climate and the need for adaptation is highlighted in crop impact studies from horn of Africa Region and the Sub Saharan Africa.

There is mounting evidence that agriculture in the Horn of Africa will have to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and much attention from development practitioners and scholars is directed towards the question of the means of adaptation. It is generally agreed that the genetic resources of important food crops are key assets for adaptation in rural households, but different research outlooks lead to different conclusions about what kind of genetic resources best allows farmers to adapt.

In The Somali Region of Ethiopia and beyond, the role Pastoral and Agro-Pastoral Research can play in developing early, Maturing and Drought resistant varieties cannot be ignored but the Regional Government for the last many years did not give the necessary attention in allocating resources for Agro-pastoral Research, this in turn made agro-pastoralists more susceptible to the changing climate and most or all of the Agro-pastoralist were dependent on food aid.

The Somali Region Pastoral and Agro-pastoral Research Institute has for many years played a major role in providing improved lowland crops in the region but has severed  badly with the former Administrations in that the Administration had no clue of what pastoral and Agro-pastoral research can contribute to the livelihoods of both Pastoralist and agro-pastoralists in the Region and that has led to reduction of budget which eventually resulted in the deserting of all the agricultural professionals in the Institute.

With all the endeavors, Somali Region Pastoral and Agro-Pastoral Research Institute, there is a shortage of Technical expertise and enough Financial resources that still hinders the expected works to be executed to the fullest possible, which in turn will help the institute come up with problem solving research finding that are context based and may help agro-pastoralists have access to improved seeds and other necessary crop management practices

Of course, even though there are benefits to planting drought resistant varieties, they aren’t the only solution to the problems. Deforestation has caused major problems in eroding fertile soils and there are many different man-made factors adding fuel to the fire on the early depleted soils by cutting trees plus the lack of integrated Soil and water Conservation activities in both the farming and grazing lands.

There are other steps farmers must take to make the most out of planting these tolerant varieties. For example, they must still look after the health of soils and practice mulching — covering soil between plants with a layer of material to keep the soil moist — to keep moisture in during periods of drought.

Introduction of Drought Tolerant Crops to agro pastoralists and Farmers

From an agricultural modernization perspective, crop adaptation is commonly framed as a question of the public and commercial development of improved varieties, and farmers’ crop adaptation options are framed as the adoption of new technology. This framing of crop adaptation does not represent the current reality in subsistence agriculture in the greater horn, where most of the seeds planted are uncertified and sourced through informal seed system channels.

One possible answer to this is to provide agro-pastoralists and farmers with varieties that are better adapted to the existing climatic conditions.

Of course, even though there are benefits to planting drought resistant varieties, they aren’t the only solution to the problems. Deforestation has caused major problems in eroding fertile soils and there are many different man-made factors adding fuel to the fire on the early depleted soils by cutting trees plus the lack of integrated Soil and water Conservation activities in both the farming and grazing lands.

Livestock Interventions

Livestock is the primary victim of the impacts of climate change hazards. As a result, in case of both emergency intervention and long term development program, livestock related disaster interventions should be focused mainly on animal health and nutrition, livestock water supply and building on existing community adaptation systems.

Facilitating livestock mobility: Provision of information where forage is available; management of conflict concerning access to key resources (water points, forage); provision of transport infrastructure;

 Develop and improve water sources such as ponds, protect and manage dry season rangelands through customary institutions;

Promote flood and rain water harvesting to address chronic water shortages,

 Strengthen and rehabilitate water storage facilities

Support in the development of fodder banks to increase the availability of fodder for livestock;

 Feed conservation (hay), rotation grazing and changing of the traditional feeding practices (cut and carry system).

Livelihoods diversification

Given the recurrent and critical impacts of climate change on the highly Climate dependent communities in the Region, diversifying livelihood options is becoming a question of survival than choice. Diversification is a proven strategy to build household resilience through spreading risk. Livelihood diversification can be engaging in any income generating activity such as crop farming, handicrafts, petty trade, labor sale, seasonal labor migration and others.

Human health and water supply

Most Households in the region largely depend on unprotected water sources such as rivers, lakes, springs and traditional wells for their water needs for use and consumption. As a result, apart from their vulnerability to water borne diseases, women and children are forced to travel long distances to fetch water. In addition, it is difficult to increase distribution of boreholes and shallow wells in settlement areas. There is a need to involve in activities that increase water availability and quality as well as reduce the vulnerability of the rural poor to shortage of water through implementing the following interventions:

  • Develop and improve water sources such as boreholes, springs and shallow wells;
  • Improve human health facilities (health centers, health posts, pharmaceuticals and trained health experts);
  •  Deploy malaria protection and prevention campaigns;
  •  Introduce solar power drilling system for sustained source of water; and
  •  Maximize use of existing water structures (provision of chemicals.

Natural Resource Management

the following appropriate interventions are recommended:

• Catchment treatment through land management, moisture and soil conservation and flood control methods;

• Implement soil and water conservation programs and projects that promote local community participation;

• Focus on rehabilitation and reclamation of degraded land, reforestation, conservation, management and protection of natural resources;

 • Rehabilitate and manage dry season rangelands;

Conflict Management and Resolution

Governments, NGOs and other development agents can participate in community peace building process by merging existing customary law with the formal institutions. Indigenous institutions, ecological and technical knowledge play paramount importance in resource management and should be given due emphasis in any peace building intervention. In cases of inter-ethnic conflicts, designing projects such as community based natural resource management should involve neighboring communities and efforts must be geared towards developing an integrated approach to conflict management.

Any intervention in conflict management and peace building should give due emphasis to build the capacities of various peace and conflict resolution committees and local institutions that facilitate dialogue.

Changing tactics in Adaptation to Climate Change

Perhaps the greatest positive change in the Climate adaptations field over the past years has been the broad recognition of the critical role played by indigenous people and local communities in delivering outcomes through local values, norms, and resource management systems. Mainstream adaptation experts these days give the importance of indigenous and local leadership in climate adaptation issues, it is also envisaged that Media and Civil Society organization can play the same role in dissemination of Information and best practices related with Climate Change adaptation.

In this context, Adaptation needs to truly speak to these social struggles and the views of the indigenous people and other local communities that are increasingly the true Adaptation leaders of our days. Adaptation has to be socially and politically relevant to local communities around the region.

Climate adaptation cannot be successful if it continues to be in conflict with those who should be its strongest allies. Greater investments should be made in supporting efforts to secure indigenous peoples and local communities to have access to information with the close collaboration of Civil Society organizations and Media houses.

Changing Human Behavior

Success or failure in climate Adaptation depends predominantly on changing human behavior – getting individuals, communities, businesses, and governments to alter the status quo. Social change can be difficult and costly, often involving complex collective action and human cooperation. Understanding that Adaptation is a process of social change is crucial to laying the foundation for Adaptation in the twenty-first century. Without such an understanding, it will be impossible to build the skills and networks that are essential to solving complex social and institutional problems.

Adaptation efforts need to tap into the explosion of knowledge around behavioral change and behavioral economics in recent years. This is key to understanding and influencing the behavioral and institutional choices of political decision makers, who often play a critical role in determining adaptation and environmental outcomes.

The COVID-19 crisis also presents an unmatched opportunity to learn about human behavior change on an extraordinary scale. For better or worse, rapid shifts in day-to-day human behavior that would have recently been deemed impossible have now occurred all around the world. As a key lesson from the pandemic is that “we can change much faster than we thought.”

Breaking Down Silos and Scaling Solutions

To address the climate crisis, experts need to move beyond long-outdated yet remarkably resilient disciplinary silos. Adaptation practice should be led by creative and entrepreneurial organizations that are focused on developing and implementing effective solutions to adaptation problems and taking them to scale. We need new and more diverse actors from across different fields to play their role in helping communities to adapt to the changing climate and prepare them to anticipate, absorb and adapt to shocks from the changing climate.

 Many NGOs are working from offices and implementing resilience and Climate Change Adaptation programs without the close consultation of the communities at grass root level, who are experts themselves in the areas of Climate change adaptation and have firsthand experiences on how to deal with changing climate.

It should be of paramount Important to work with communities from planning to implementation of the projects so that sustainable and helping solutions are put in place.

Hussien Mohamed Yusuf
Email: [email protected]


IPCC (1990). Climate Change 2001: The First assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

The 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

2013. Somalia National Adaptation Programme of Action to Climate Change

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