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Sudan Ill-Equipped to Handle Climate Change

Sudan, along with other countries in the Sahel, has had several long and devastating droughts in the past few decades. The most severe was from 1980 to 1984; it was accompanied by widespread displacement and localized famine.

Climate problems lead not only to hardship – but to conflict as well. A United Nations report listed the erosion of natural resources caused by climate change as one of the causes of conflict in Sudan.

The U.N. says the scale of climate change, especially in northern Darfur, is almost unprecedented. The reduction in rainfall has turned millions of hectares of already marginal, semi-arid grazing land into desert. Climate change is considered to be directly related to conflict in the region. Desertification endangers the livelihoods of pastoralists, forcing them to move to find pasture and encroaching on land occupied by others. In the um Chelluta region of southern Darfur, rain-fed agricultural land decreased by 138 percent between 1973 and 2000, while rangeland decreased by 56 percent and closed woodland by 32 percent.

The United Nations says similar problems may develop in the remaining rangelands in the northern part of the Sahel belt. The U.N. Environment Protection Agency pointed out that the fighting in Darfur was often characterized by a “scorched earth” campaign, carried out by militias over large areas, causing the widespread destruction of villages and forests. And it says the environment is being further undermined by the large numbers of displaced people and refugees. Experts say the only way to turn the situation around is to get major funding for the development of adaptation technologies – technologies that are environmentally sound -- to enable the environment to recover.

Neeman-al-Hassan is a top official in the Sudanese ministry of the environment. In this third part of our five part series on Africa and climate change, he tells VOA reporter Chinedu Offor the calls for an adaptation fund to help the country feed its population is not likely to make a difference.

“The agenda for adaptation treated in a piecemeal like situation; it’s fragmented; there is no comprehensive framework that addresses adaptation in a strategic way that provides the policy guidance for parties, for countries, for all interested organizations to address adaptation in a strategic way,“ he said.