Africa

Amid climate destruction in Africa, citizens fight for survival

Africa will be the continent most impacted by climate change even though it has contributed the least to our climate crisis. The 54 countries of Africa emit only 3.8% of global greenhouse gases, while a country like the United States, for example, emits 19%.

But despite these low emissions, climate change is wreaking havoc in Africa.

“Climate change is a matter of life and death for us,” Kemo Fatty, the founder of Green Up Gambia, told Earth Day Network. “It’s doomsday. I don’t even have the words to describe the horrible things climate change is doing to our people.” 

For the past decade, The Gambia has reported crop failures of more than 70% from droughts and rising sea levels that destroy rice fields. The Gambia’s citizens are starving, and the country’s development has stalled. Green Up Gambia mitigates these crises by representing The Gambia at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Climate change is a matter of life and death for us.

Kemo Fatty, Founder of Green Up Gambia

Still, the nationwide crop failure forces Gambians to change their way of life. Kemo’s family, like many in The Gambia, are farmers. His parents and little brother now depend on him to buy imported rice to survive. 

This issue, however, isn’t limited to West Africa. In East Africa, families also have failing crops. A story recently told by World Vision Australia discusses an Ethiopian mother, Bilku, and her baby, Nesredin. They lost all of their crops from an extended drought.

Bilku and Nesredin on their farm. Photo credit: World Vision Australia.

Unfortunately, their story is a common one, as conditions across East Africa worsen. Today, vast swarms of locusts endanger the food supply of tens of millions, especially in Kenya. Swarms like these haven’t been seen in over 70 years, but they are likely to continue as the Indian Ocean warms, causing more rainfall and warmer temperatures that create ideal breeding conditions for locusts. 

Furthermore, this increase in rainfall has brought floods across East Africa that have killed more than 250 people. These floods were caused by the Indian Ocean Dipole, a climate phenomenon that links weather extremes from one end of the ocean to the other. If East Africa sees floods, Australia will suffer from drought. This is why both Australia’s bushfires and East Africa’s floodings this year were the worst seen in decades

These crises illustrate the fact that Africa is in a climate emergency. In this emergency, however, one thing stands out: the will of the African people. Although they’re not responsible for the climate crisis, Africans are rising to the challenge to mitigate climate change with Earth Day.

Volunteers in Tanzania hosting a teach-in on environmental conservation with more than 400 students.

“Earth Day Africa is a citizens’ movement across the continent,” said Derrick Mugisha, Earth Day Network’s Uganda Director. “We are able to address climate change through teach-ins, cleanups, tree plantings and other events.” 

These events serve as the foundation of the Earth Day movement. Across Africa, activists are empowering the environmental movement in preparation for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Earth Day Africa has team members in nine sub-Saharan countries and thousands of volunteers throughout the continent. 

The citizens’ determination is sparking a new wave of climate awareness and action across the continent. They are seeing the worst effects of climate change and uniting across borders to fight it.

On April 22, 2020, Earth Day will become the world’s largest environmental movement. Visit Earth Day Africa and The Earth Day Action Hub to join.