While foreign climate aid helps Africa, continent must take fight into own hands

In early March, Finance Innovation for Climate Change, a United Kingdom-based group that funds adaptation and readiness projects in the developing world, announced its Climate Agriculture Initiative.

The initiative is designed to help small farmers in Kenya lessen the effects of climate change in tangible ways, by providing loans that will bolster agricultural efficiency. The loans will go toward soil testing, pest control, crop protection and fertility.

The initiative is exactly the type of climate change adaptation tactics that will reverberate in Africa, a continent that is stubbornly blind to the threat of climate change despite a large chunk of the region finding itself directly in the path of the rising temperatures. Africa is beset by a clear vulnerability to climate change and a lack of readiness should climate change strike. Temperature change and its subsequent effects — droughts, flooding, unpredictable storm patterns — threatens not just Africa’s natural resources and environment, but also the infrastructure — schools, hospitals, roads and bridges — that form the ties that hold the continent’s society together.

How do we solve a problem like Africa’s lack of concern about climate change? After all, it is very much a long-term threat on a continent that is plagued by short-term issues — poverty, unemployment, lack of infrastructure and middling economic diversity. However, one way to raise awareness for climate change is to humanize it, and bring the threat to the ground level, just as the Climate Agriculture Initiative does. These kinds of initiatives are happening all over the continent, but they are almost entirely funded by outside agents, aid foundations and Western nonprofit organizations.

In May, the Climate South Initiative will hold its first-annual conference. Held in Libreville, Gabon, and organized by the same group — Richard Attias & Associates — that has held the New York Forum AFRICA for the past four years. NYFA was the largest pan-African conference on the continent last year. Both summits focus on empowering Africans to take control of their future, in business, in politics, and in climate change.

The CSI’s stated goal is to develop a results-driven plan to fight climate change ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), scheduled for Paris in December, but the collateral outcome can be so much more than that. If the summit is attended by some of Africa’s biggest decision-makers, they can start to develop strategies to adapt to climate change on a local, regional and national level, without those programs being run by a foreign aid service.

Africa is need of a wake-up call on climate change. While foreign organizations dropping loans here and there throughout the continent is a positive sign, Africans must start prioritizing the climate fight for themselves — and they must do it soon.

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