News / Africa

West Africa Explores Ways to Mitigate Climate Change's Effects

Senegalese fishermen talk with environmental groups about the changes they've seen in fishing stocks
Senegalese fishermen talk with environmental groups about the changes they've seen in fishing stocks
Julia Ritchey

From eroding coastline to depleted fish stocks, the effects of climate change are being felt along West Africa's coast and governments and environmental groups are coming together to talk about what can be done to mitigate its impact.  

The ocean breaking on southern Senegal's coastline does not look much different from any other beach. But a closer a look at the Palmarin peninsula, reveals a different story, uprooted palm trees mark eroded coastlines and vestiges of buildings mark where a village was washed away two decades ago.

An island visible from the tip of Palmarin used to be connected to the peninsula, but rising waters and a tidal wave in 1987 separated the two with the gap getting wider and deeper with each year, according to local residents.

A master's student working at the World Wildlife Fund in Senegal, Annika O'Dea, says Palmarin's coast serves as just one example of how climate change has affected the ecosystems of West Africa.

“This ecosystem is more important than many because it is one of the most productive marine ecosystems in the world, because of the upwelling of the Canary currents," said O'Dea. "And because it is an interconnected ecosystem, it really requires international cooperation.”  

Seven countries along West Africa's coast, including Senegal, Mauritania, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone and Cape Verde, gathered for a USAID-funded conference this month, the first of three scheduled, to discuss and compare climate-change concerns in the region.  

A WWF coordinator in Gambia, Ibrahima Mat Dia, explained on a field trip for participants about one village in Palmarin called Kad Diakhanor that will eventually have to move due to encroaching waters.

"This village has to be relocated somewhere else, but for the community, there are not enough facilities over there, they do no want to move," said Dia.

Sierra Leone Environmental Protection Agency Director Kolleh Bangura says he sees similar situations in his country.

“I also look at Sierra Leone and Senegal having very similar problems," said Bangura. "Part of the problem, are trans-boundary problems, which you have to sort of approach on a regional basis.  What is happening on the coastline is not entirely the making of the Senegal.”

Bangura says many environmental issues in Sierra Leone are exacerbated by problems leftover from the country's 11-year civil war, with lawlessness one of the biggest challenges.  He says people use up natural resources for mining or logging without any idea of how it degrades the land.

“People grab the land and you really have use force to remove them there sometimes," he said. "So lawlessness is a very big issue and it has resulted from the war.  Mainly because some of the youth today were soldiers 10 years ago, as child soldiers, and all they knew was violence.  When they grow up without any education, these are people who are very difficult to negotiate with.  They do not know anything about the environment, so the literacy is one big thing.”

In West Africa, one of the biggest examples of climate change's cause and effect has been overfishing.  As agricultural land further inland has dried up and the soil salinized by irrigation, more people have moved to the coasts of these countries to try to make a living, putting enormous strain on the beaches and fishing stocks.

Virginia Lee, a professor at the University of Rhode Island who works on coastal issues with the WWF here, says the depleted fish stocks threaten the local populations who rely on them.

"Fish are a food security issue, more clearly in West Africa than in some places, the United States for instance," said Lee. "Fish is a protein supply, primary animal protein supply.  So when the fisheries are declining here, due to over fishing both by local people and by the international industrial fleets, that really affects the security of the people, the health and vitality of the people.”

In the nearby fishing port of Joal, local fish mongers and fisherman shared anecdotes of how fishing stocks had changed during the past few decades.

One fisherman says they used to be able to trap tons of fish close to the shore, now they have to go further and further away.

Another fisherman said in 1965, there were only five to 10 boats off Joal's coast, but now there are hundreds of them casting thousands of nets.  Many of the fishermen say they have adapted to the depleting fisheries by diversifying and becoming farmers and herders on the side.

The director of the WWF in Senegal, Arona Soumare, who has worked with the NGO for eight years, says he thinks there has been in a subtle shift in opinion in West Africa.

"I think it is yes and no," said Soumare. "I see yes in terms of people having related more to this issue.  A few years ago, when we talked about the environment to locals, they thought, okay, these are people coming from developed countries who just want to tell them what to do. Now people can start seeing how it is impacting their life, and it is happening sometimes in their backyard.”

Soumare says ecological arguments are not enough to convince people to change their behavior, he thinks West Africans first have to see it terms of economic development as well as their own personal survival.

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More