Impacts of climate change on African indigenous communities and examples of adaptation responses


Indigenous communities have constantly adapted to the effects of environmental stresses over a very long period of time, and many climate change adaptation mechanisms have been adopted in recent decades. However, the more recent impacts of climate change have strained these communities.13 as indigenous peoples are idiosyncratically affected by climate change (e.g. reduced crop yields, water scarcity and exposure to malnutrition) and also by the failure of policies or actions designed to remediate.

Figure 1 provides an overview of the climate pressures these communities across Africa are currently exposed to, and the coping mechanisms they are deploying, in order to be in a better position to face the challenges posed by climate change. .

Fig. 1

Spatial distribution of different African communities, challenges related to climate change encountered and adaptation mechanisms applied.

In addition to the issues depicted in Figure 1, there are other barriers to adaptation to climate change that are often observed across Africa, namely the unequal global vulnerability of populations, differential accountability and unequal power in governance. decision-making regarding policy development, thereby undermining the resilience capacity of indigenous communities14. As shown in Figure 1, the communities studied do their best to overcome these barriers. There are examples that show that the knowledge of indigenous peoples is an important element in the success of policies aimed at increasing adaptation.15. For example, Afar communities have extensive experience in adapting to the impacts of climate change using their ILK through understanding biophysical observations.16, and community perception was matched with temperature trends using conventional weather forecasting systems17. Likewise, the Borana people use indigenous systems of collective resource governance, traditional social insurance and safety net systems, and weather forecasting systems based on changes in animal behavior, as well as movement and the alignment of stars and divination of the entrails of animals, which have been proven for centuries despite the challenges posed by an increasingly variable climate18, thus allowing acclimatization to the challenges of drought19.

The Fulani also used indigenous techniques of adaptation to the climate, such as the diversification of livestock feeds, livestock stress management techniques and the division of labor.20. On the other hand, the Endorois have turned to climate-smart agroecological production systems, such as growing drought-resistant grains, tubers and vegetables. This shift in production systems has led to more sustainable land management, minimal water use, reduced human-wildlife conflict, and increased food security among the Endorois.21. Due to their strong cultural connection to their surroundings, the Endorois have also embraced nature-based ecotourism businesses, including medical, cultural and geotourism tourism in response to the negative effects of climate change on livelihoods. Other adaptations to the effects of climate change in the Endorois include diversification of livestock and crops, adjustment of herd by class, destocking of livestock and complementary feeding of livestock.21.

It is a question of fact that the ILK for adaptation to climate change is not limited to African communities. In Australia, the Mirriwong people, for example, adopted the use of flora and fauna as an instrument for tracking seasonal changes, for example, the bloom of Woolegalegeng (Melaleuca argentea) indicates thunderstorms22. On the other hand, in Malaysia, the communities of Sarawak (Lun Bawang, Saban and Penan) used native forecasts such as the color changes of the sky, the phases of the moon and the migration of animals.23 to identify changes in weather conditions. International examples highlight the potential of ILK systems to be integrated into modern climate risk assessments as part of climate change risk adaptation18.20.

About Shirley L. Kreger

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