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

Photogallery US to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Expanded Ebola Effort

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Obama is to announce troop deployment, other details of US plans to fight Ebola outbreak More

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid