7 ways Africa is adapting to climate change
Africa Climate Week, taking place virtually from September 26 to 29, will focus on ambitious solutions to address the effects of climate change. Here are a few examples of adaptation strategies from across the continent.
Locusts, boosted by drought, heavy rains and warm temperatures, have devastated crops in East Africa. Pesticides can help, though they're not exactly environmentally friendly. Scientists in Nairobi have experimented with fungi and other microbes to make safer poisons. They've also used the locusts' unique smell, which changes as they mature, to break up swarms and even drive them to cannibalism.
Fighting fire with fire
Wildfires are increasing in frequency and intensity worldwide, and Africa is no exception. In Botswana, firefighters are learning the age-old techniques of Australia's northern Indigenous people. They prevent bigger fires by preemptively burning away grass and dry leaves, preserving biodiversity and reducing CO2 emissions. Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique could also benefit.
Inspired by history
People in Zimbabwe are also looking to the past to plan for the future. Faced with flooding linked to climate change, some are reviving ngazi, traditional thatched homes on stilts. These elevated structures, about 2 meters (6.5 feet) above the ground, are making a comeback along the Zambezi River. They protect inhabitants from floods while keeping them cooler than brick homes.
Water from waste
Namibia is one of southern Africa's most arid countries, and it's expecting longer, more intense droughts in the future. Windhoek, with more than 400,000 people, has already anticipated that problem. Back in 1968, the city installed the word's first water recycling plant, reclaiming sewage for drinking water in a 10-step process. Expanded in 2002, it continues to deliver a reliable water supply.
Eyes in the sky
Maps are crucial for helping communities prepare for increased risks of flooding, landslides and storms linked to climate change. And, yet, many African maps are rarely updated — even in urban areas, where rapid unplanned growth can stay hidden for years. Drones can help planners get an updated view, while machine learning uses satellite data to develop risk maps for cities and agricultural areas.
Just add water
Hydroponics, raising plants without soil, has allowed some farmers to grow crops with very little water or space. It's a great option for Africa's arid regions, but such setups require a constant supply of electricity — not ideal in places with frequent power outages. Two mechanical engineering students in South Africa have designed a new pipe system that only requires power for four hours a day.
Going with the flow
Farms in low-lying areas such as Egypt's Nile Delta are threatened by rising seas and salty water. Some people have begun to look to China (above) for ideas on how to raise fish and grow plants in the same space. Aquaponics helps preserve scarce fresh water, and crops benefit from fish waste fertilizer. To adapt, researchers are looking for plants and fish species more suited to brackish water.