Climate change impact is real! Communities, especially the poorest ones among others, around the world, have been bearing the brunt of ongoing climate change. Some of these poorest communities reside in the countries which lie in the Sahelian zone of west-central Africa. Of late, the world has caught the attention of the plight of the countries which rely heavily for their economic needs on one of their water bodies, Lake Chad, which has been shrinking for many years now. Apart from poverty coupled with internal conflicts, the people of these countries, now, are at the receiving end of the climate impact as the frequent occurrences of droughts and floods continue to lash them.
An inland body of freshwater and also the shallowest lake in the world, Lake Chad is shared by Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. Vital for millions of people in these poverty-stricken regions, not just economically but also culturally, Lake Chad has now shrunk to 10th its size in the last fifty years. Its levels have varied erratically over the years. Hit by droughts in the 1970s and 1980s, it severely dried out, though, it has recovered, to some extent, since then. While it is not certain that the shrinking has been caused solely by climate change, but climate change, for sure, is one of the many factors such as rising population and current agricultural practice among others, driving it.
With shrinking Lake Chad, internal migration is on the rise. In periods of drought, when Lake Chad fails to sustain them, men from these communities have to look for work in bigger cities and sometimes, they have to move as far as to Europe. This causes women and children to be on their own to secure food on a daily basis, sometimes, exposing them to the risks of violence among communities. Lack of strong governance and scarcity of resources are resulting in frequent stress. There has been a massive erosion of social cohesion and trust among people. As per Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, these African nations would be among the worst-hit nations by the climate change as the frequency and periods of terrible droughts will add further instability in the region because of growing food insecurity and, livelihood and economic instability. As the water becomes unpredictable due to varying levels of the lake, people find it difficult to plan what, when and how to farm, fish or cultivate.
To secure food, though, some innovative yet old methods are on the rise. Farmers in the Sahel regions are trying to revive an old technique called Zai, wherein, they dig pits to collect rainwater and put compost and seeds in it, which results in a concentration of nutrients. In periods of drought, the pits retain enough water to sustain plant growth. This technique has been known to increase crop yield by 500 per cent! Further, on the global front, more voices could be heard which have been directing the attention of international aid providing organisations on these affected countries. Climate-adaptive social protection programs have been planned but still, remain at a very early stage. People of the region, too, have not lost all hope yet. To further mitigate the impact of climate change, they have been planting trees to attract more rainfall, but this may not be enough. An effort at the global level to curb carbon emissions, by switching to cleaner energy and shifting our lifestyles dramatically, is needed to restrain global warming and the resulting climate impact on these nations.