By: Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang in Ouagadougou
African Union’s Senior Policy Officer on Forestry and Land Management & Interim Coordinator for the African Union Fouta Djallon Highlands Program has disclosed that Climate Change and desertification pose serious threat to Africa’s ability to feed itself of droughts and floods, and the menace has the potential to undo the socio-economic gains registered by Africa since independence.
Almami Dampha made this remark during the official opening ceremony of Policy Dialogue on strengthening the role of communication and media in adaptation and mitigation to climate change and combating desertification. The forum is organized by the African Union and the Semi-Arid Food Grains Research and development (AU-SAFGRAD). Recently held in the Burkinabe capital of Ouagadougou, Dampha warned that if holistic efforts are not put in place, climate change and desertification will compound peace and security issues in Africa as people continue to compete over dwindling resources (land, pastures and water).
He said the role of the media has assumed unprecedented importance in the last few years with coming up of a variety of social media outlets, but he however revealed that the environment does not often get a fair share of this boom.
Environmental news hardly find their way onto to the front pages of the printed media, while social media has the reach, speed, and user-generated content application and flexibility, he pointed out.
Counting on the importance of the media and communicators, the AU expert believed that they act as a watchdog, shapes and strengthens corporate social responsibility, holds public institutions accountable, rally stakeholders to influence policies and public opinion on environmental issues, and serve as platforms to address sustainability issues through the engagement of the citizenries.
Reiterating the treat caused by land degradation and climate change, the AU expert disclosed that these underlining factors are leading to youth’s migration and growth of terrorism, while equally accelerating the frequency and severity of disasters in Africa.
As to what the AU is doing to address climate change and desertification in Africa, Dampha revealed that his organization is doing advocacy and support resilience for livelihoods in agriculture, economic, livelihood diversification and the implementation of the Malabo Declaration for Agricultural Transformation.
On institutional frameworks to comprehensively address the mounting challenges of climate change, desertification and agriculture, Dampha disclosed that the African Union established implementation and coordination structures at different levels. These include Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture with a division focusing on environment, climate change, water and land management, and special technical offices in various parts of the continent with mandates on agriculture, land, drought and livestock.
On capacity development to address climate change and land degradation, he posited that the AU trained UNCCD and UNFCCC negotiators, scientists and further facilitated their participation in the Conferences Of the Parties (COP) and support thematic Programme Networks established at the regional levels to address specific themes of relevance in the framework of the UNCCD implementation.
Adding on, he said support is awarded to AU Member States in the implementation of the Paris Agreement and further support them in the desertification and implementation of the UNCCD Strategic Framework 2018 – 2030.
On awareness creation to address climate change, land degradation and other environmental threats, he noted that the AU Commission in partnership with NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency as well SAFGRAD and other partners commemorated specific events like the Africa Environment and Wangari Maathai Day, International Day of Forests, Africa Food and Nutrition Day and training for journalists and communicators.
Dampha, who was the coordinator of the Gambia Forestry Communication Concept before joining the AU concluded that “A more environment-conscious society is certainly beneficial in the long run for us all”.