Over 60 Climate Change experts drawn from all 15 SADC Member States recently convened in Johannesburg, South Africa to validate the final draft Regional Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan. The experts met from 12-14 May at Birchwood Hotel.The Strategy when finalised and adopted aims to facilitate actions to address the impacts of climate change in the region through successful implementation of adaptation and greenhouse gas mitigation actions to enhance regional sustainable development while also increasing social resilience to climate risks and reducing poverty.
The meeting was officially opened by the Representative of the SADC Chair, Zimbabwe, Mr Bernard Mache, who is Director in the Ministry of Agriculture. The SADC Secretariat was represented by Mrs Margaret Nyirenda, Director Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Directorate while the host country, South Africa was represented by Mr Stuart Mangold who is Director Africa and Bilateral Relations in the Department of Environmental Affairs.Reiterating the importance of the meeting, Mr Mache noted that Climate Change has affected a number of sectors in the SADC region,. Some of the sectors affected include agriculture, water and energy. This was due to erratic rainfall patterns and droughts that caused crop failures. He cited the drought during the just ended cropping season that is expected to result into food deficits and increase the number of food insecure people in the region. He noted that the region needs to take proactive and innovative steps to address climate change. He observed therefore that the strategy came at the right time.
Mr Mache indicated that the meeting was important in that apart from validating the climate change strategy, it would also provide an opportunity for participants to further review the Regional Green Economy Strategy and the Climate Change Framework for the Science, Technology and Innovation sector which had previously been validated.Speaking at the same meeting, Mrs Margaret Nyirenda pointed out that Africa and the SADC region in particular bears the brunt of climate change and variability. This is despite the region’s minimal contribution to greenhouse gases that cause climate change and global warming currently estimated at about 2.8%.
Mrs Nyirenda explained that the impacts of climate change are varied and diverse. This is because the region is particularly vulnerable to climate change and multiple stresses including high population. These impacts are exacerbated by multiple stressors including high population growth, rampant poverty rates, HIV/AIDS, unstable and undiversified economies, political instability and over reliance on rain fed agriculture.She cited some of the impacts of climate change as including unpredictable and unreliable rainfall patterns, frequent droughts and high frequency of extreme weather events such as floods that have killed hundreds of people, made thousands homeless and destroyed infrastructure worth millions of dollars in Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique.
Mrs Nyirenda stressed that recurrence of incidences such as the above mentioned have implications on Agriculture and the region’s food security, water availability, livelihood security, infrastructure development and maintenance and have implications of sea level rise particularly in the region’s Small Islands Developing States. She added that climate change also impedes development of the people of the Southern African region as well as hamper any poverty eradication programmes. It is against this background that there was need for the SADC region to take proactive steps in combating climate change. At the end of the workshop, Member States proposed a number of amendments to the draft climate change and Green Economy strategies as well as the Climate Change Framework for Science and Technology. This led to a working group of 7 Member States being formed to fine tune the draft Strategies in line with contributions from the workshop.