Global warming, hunger and poverty (Willem)


Dear Sirs,

Today I have been reading your article

entitled : Global Warming Batters Nigerian Ecosystems.

I found it most interesting and I agree fully with the conclusions on the Nigerian contribution to global warming.

However, the most important paragraph in the text for me is :

Rainfall in the Sahel has been declining steadily since the 1960’s. The result has been the loss of farmlands and conflicts between farmers and herdsmen over ever decreasing land. Many different communities, including fishermen, farmers and herdsmen, are now confronted with difficulties arising from climatic changes. Peoples’ livelihoods are being harmed, and people who are already poor are becoming even more impoverished. Climate refugees are being created, as the changes make some land unlivable and affect water supplies.

Indeed, recognizing the importance of the discussion on global warming, one should be aware that the more “immediate” problems are :

Loss of farmlands.
Conflicts over ever decreasing land.
Climate refugees.
Unlivable land.
Poor water supplies.

It will take an extremely long time to change national and international attitudes and behavior concerning industrial (economic) exploitation of  natural resources, like oil and gas, not only in Nigeria !  On the contrary, urgent solutions for the above mentioned basic problems of land degradation, food security, migration and poverty are badly needed.

Therefore, one should take into account that successful application of a cost-effective combination of traditional agricultural methods with modern technologies has shown that within the shortest time the combat of desertification and the alleviation of poverty can be won.  Let me refer to a number of “best practices” documented by some international institutes and organizations and to successes booked with small-scale development programs, like the one of UNICEF ALGERIA on the creation of family gardens and school gardens in the Sahara desert in S.W. Algeria.

With these family gardens, it was clearly shown that with minimal investment maximal results were booked within the shortest time, e.g. 6 months, whereby families in refugee camps (migrants) were enabled to grow their own food with a minimum of irrigation water.  A very simple soil conditioning method offered a maximum of chances to grow vegetables and fruit trees in two different seasons : a milder autumn-winter period and a hot spring-summer season.

Being aware of the necessity to take care of the global warming problem (a long-term task), the international community should FIRST provide short-term ways and means to solve the food problem in all the drylands of this world.  The solutions are known.

Poor rural people in the drylands, climate refugees, drought and political migrants, they all may show some concern over climate change and global warming. However, their most urgent wishes, their basic priorities are not directly related to the climate, but to their empty stomach and poverty.  If there is any option for us, then let us first take care of their water and food problems.  For no one can be fully active with an empty stomach !  And let us not forget : the cost-effective solutions are well-known.  Is the bell ringing ?

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

One thought on “Global warming, hunger and poverty (Willem)”

  1. What is the impact of climate change on climate refugees? What is exactly happening?

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