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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid