What the latest IPCC report means for families in rural Africa

Thumbnail of the IPCC report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on the 9th of August detailing the devastating effect the climate crisis is having. IPCC Working Group Co-Chair, Valérie Masson-Delmotte stated that the report was a ‘reality check’.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on the 9th of August detailing the devastating effect the climate crisis is having. IPCC Working Group Co-Chair, Valérie Masson-Delmotte stated that the report was a ‘reality check’.

The report told us that even if we keep global heating at a 1.5°C increase, the world will continue to see devastating floods and droughts. At 2°C of global warming, heat extremes will reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health.

The process taken to produce the report was incredibly thorough, involving hundreds of scientific and technical experts and a review of thousands of reports - finally being agreed line-by-line by 195 governments. The strength of the report’s warnings and confidence in some of the findings including the impact of human influence was very clear with the report stating, ‘it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land’.

The farmers that Ripple Effect partners with are already experiencing the effects of the climate crisis first, and worst. They are experiencing increasingly extreme and uncertain weather patterns, more droughts, flooding, changes in the timing of seasons and new threats to crops from pests. This report relies on more evidence from observation of events than ever before, and it confirms what farmers in rural Africa have been saying to us for many years. I recently asked a number of project teams across Africa what they thought the biggest risks our farmers face and they were united in highlighting the changing climate and its impact on families ability to grow enough sufficient, nutritious food to fight hunger. Farmers described the weather patterns in their countries as having ‘completely changed’.

Despite the strength and clarity of these warnings, I continue to fear that if we don’t take sufficient action quickly or we choose large-scale land-related measures like afforestation or bioenergy supply without considering local communities, the food production and food security situation could worsen.

We can’t talk about the climate crisis without addressing the impact that Covid
is also having on farming families
– the pandemic is having a bigger impact in East Africa now than at any point. In addition to the damaging social and economic impacts, the health effects are being widely felt. The roll out of the vaccine is significantly behind countries like the UK at less than 10% of the population and the impact of Covid will most likely be directly felt for at least the next 12-18 months until a sufficient number of the population have been vaccinated.

Policies to protect populations, such as limiting the size of gatherings and enforcing curfews, make it harder for our teams to provide important practical support and training to farmers. In the face of this challenge however, we are adapting our approaches using technology and a greater use of our peer farmer networks. Our vital work during the pandemic will take longer and cost more to deliver the same results however we’re standing side by side with our farming families to survive both the pandemic and climate crisis as they are now inextricably linked.

The report emphasises and confirms the stories of the farmers we work alongside and the evidence provides greater clarity on the issues and urgency on the need to take action now. It stirs us even more to share what we hear from farmers and their families to try to influence policy-makers to find more ways to partner with others and to continue to develop our approaches to help communities mitigate and adapt to these challenges.

One example of this is our new project in Burundi, supported by the Isle of Man Government. More than 65% of the population in Burundi live in poverty and the climate crisis is having a further direct impact on food productivity and livelihoods as 94% depend on small-scale, rain-fed agriculture. The project will work with 10,500 vulnerable families in Mwaro province, central Burundi to mitigate, adapt and build their resilience to the climate crisis through sustainable farming solutions. In addition, 85,000 trees will be planted to regenerate the land and fight hunger.

The FAQs to the report highlight the link between the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and limiting global warming to less than 1.5 degrees above Pre-Industrial levels. The SDGs have international and multi-sector support, and therefore this is a big opportunity for governments, development organisations, corporates, investors and communities to come together. The report is clear, without addressing the challenges of the climate crisis now, we will have no chance to deliver the SDGs by 2030. The stage is therefore set to take action now.

Please continue to stand alongside us and rural communities in East Africa. Those who have contributed least to this climate crisis are suffering the most and here at Ripple Effect, we think this is unjust. We are really grateful to over 25,000 people who have already signed our climate petition, which we will be delivering to Downing Street in October. Thank you for your continuing generosity and support. Despite the starkness of the latest IPCC report, the message is clear that if we come together and take big actions now, we can minimize the likelihood of hitting these tipping points and the impact for you, me and the farming families we stand alongside.