COP 15 in Côte d’Ivoire: Drought at the center of concern

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A young boy tends cattle and drinks from a water trough in the desert near Dertu in Kenya, October 24, 2021.

Photo: AFP / VNA / CVN

“Lands. Life. Heritage: From an uncertain world to a prosperous future”. The title of the meeting is already ringing the alarm bell. The dozen heads of state expected will have to tackle the country’s endangered health, which is already 40% deteriorating under the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

If the projected plans are ambitious (restoration of one billion hectares of land by 2030, incentive for sustainable land use), the consequences, in the case of passivity, could be catastrophic for the climate, biodiversity and livelihoods.

Drought and famine in the Horn of Africa

From southern Ethiopia to northern Kenya via Somalia, the Horn of Africa is facing a drought that is alarming humanitarian organizations, with nearly 20 million people at risk of starvation.

In these regions, where the population lives mainly on livestock and agriculture, the last three rainy seasons since the end of 2020 have been characterized by low rainfall, in addition to an invasion of grasshoppers, which ravaged crops between 2019 and 2021.

One month after the theoretical start of the rainy season, “The number of people hungry due to drought may increase from the current estimate of 14 million to 20 million in 2022”said the World Food Program (WFP) in April.

Nearly 40% of Somalia’s population, or six million people, are facing extreme levels of food insecurity, and some areas are probably already experiencing famine. In Ethiopia, 6.5 million people face “severe food insecurity”, as do 3.5 million people in Kenya, according to the agency.

The advance of the desert in Morocco

Mohamed Mohamud, a guard at Sabuli Wildlife, looks at a carcass of a giraffe near the village of Matana, Kenya, on October 25, 2021.

Photo: AFP / VNA / CVN

Since the 1980s, the sand has continued to advance towards the city of Er-Rissani, whose surroundings offer a spectacle of desolation. As far as the eye can see, hundreds of palm trees rot on a cracked ocher soil. With the end of XXand century came the long periods of drought and the departure of the peasants. Agriculture has become marginal.

For centuries, the oases have formed an impregnable shield against desertification. They are now suffering from drought and a sharp drop in the groundwater table – a consequence of its overexploitation and poor management of surface water – and from growing urbanization.

Oases are considered to be the most vulnerable ecosystems – to “high risk”– in the light of climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Their disappearance would have serious environmental consequences, but also economic, social, cultural …

Lack of water in Iraq

In Iraq, water reserves have halved compared to 2021. The phenomenon has been attributed to repeated droughts, declining rainfall and declining river flows.

Iraq, rich in hydrocarbons, is one of the five countries in the world most vulnerable to climate change and desertification. The water issue is a key issue for this semi-desert country with 41 million inhabitants.

“Available water reserves are much lower than what we had last year (in 2021), by about 50%, due to low rainfall and the amounts (water) coming from neighboring countries”said Aoun Dhiab, senior adviser to the Ministry of Water Resources, on April 21.

“It’s a warning about how to use (water supplies) next summer and in winter. These factors we take into account when planning for the agricultural sector.”added the adviser

Drought and water shortages have already forced Iraq to halve cultivated land by the 2021-2022 winter season. The World Bank (WB) has estimated that in the absence of appropriate policies, Iraq could experience a 20% drop in its available freshwater resources by 2050.

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