Silabat Manaye is international relations professional based in Addis Ababa. His research interests include water politics, geopolitics in the Horn of Africa, and War Journalism. He authored two books on Nile geopolitics. His MA thesis focused on Ethiopia’s Environmental Diplomacy in the Case of the Nile River.
The Impacts of Climate Change in Africa

According to the IPCC report (2023), the impacts of climate change on developing countries in
Africa, one of the most vulnerable continents, are due to a lack of financial, technical, and institutional capacity to cope with the impacts of climate change. Due to various anthropogenic activities, greenhouse gases are increasing in the atmosphere at an alarming rate, which leads to extreme temperatures, flooding, loss of soil fertility, low agricultural production (both crops and livestock), biodiversity loss, the risk of water stress, and the prevalence of various diseases. It is predicted that the temperature on the African continent will rise by 2 to 6°C over the next 100 years. In terms of economics, Sub-Saharan Africa will lose a total of US$26 million by 2060 due to climate change. The increasing occurrence of flooding and drought is also another predicted problem for Africa.

Impacts of climate change on agricultural yields in Africa

A strong agriculture sector is necessary for food security in Africa. According to a recent study, climate change is responsible for reducing agricultural yields by 21 percent worldwide over the last 60 years. 7 In this period, the cumulative impact of climate change has been greatest in relatively warm regions such as Africa, responsible for a 33 percent yield decline. Like this study, most others focus on the important impact of nonliving systems (e.g., sea level rise, increased temperatures, greater frequency and severity of storms and droughts) but not living systems, including agricultural pests and plant diseases.

Food insecurity in Africa: A baseline

Climate change is compounding food insecurity on a continent already severely afflicted by hunger and malnutrition. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN’s (UN FAO) most basic estimate of food insecurity is the “prevalence of undernourishment,” describing the proportion of a population that lacks enough dietary energy for a healthy, active life. The prevalence of undernourishment is estimated to be 19.1 percent, or 250.3 million people, across Africa; populations in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean are undernourished at less than half this rate (8.3 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively). 1 While the absolute number of undernourished people is lower in Africa (250.3 million) than in Asia (381.1 million) today, the UN estimates that Africa will be home to the highest prevalence and absolute number (25.7 percent, or 433.2 million) of undernourished people by 2030.

Ethiopia’s Green Legacy

Ethiopia, home to 120 million people, is one of the world’s most drought-prone countries. It has a high degree of vulnerability to hydro-meteorological hazards and natural disasters. Green Legacy, for a greener and cleaner Ethiopia, is a national go-green campaign endeavoring
to raise the public’s awareness about Ethiopia’s frightening environmental degradation and educate society on the importance of adapting green behavior. The Green legacy in Ethiopia encompasses more than just tree planting. The initiative entails broader environmental and sustainable development initiatives. The approach includes ecosystem restoration, biodiversity conservation, renewable energy promotion, and building a green economy.

Ethiopia’s Green Legacy also recognizes the importance of grassroots involvement, community participation, and ownership in environmental conservation efforts. It highlights the need for reforestation and restoration programs to be integrated into wider national development plans, ensuring long-term sustainability. The initiative in Ethiopia serves as an example of how environmental conservation and socioeconomic development can go hand in hand.

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development Ethiopia, Dependence on sectors that are climate change sensitive, such as rain-fed agriculture, water, tourism, and forestry, as well as a high level of poverty, are the main factors that exacerbate Ethiopia’s vulnerability. Ethiopia’s policy response to climate change has progressively evolved since the ratification of the UNFCCC in 1994.

Ethiopia launched the National Adaptation Plan of Action in 2007 and the Ethiopian Programme of Adaptation on Climate Change and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions in 2010. Ethiopia also endorsed a Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy in 2011 with the objective of building a green and resilient economy. Over the years, Ethiopia has been implementing various programs within those policy frameworks. One among them, and by far the most consequential, has been the Green Legacy Initiative (GLI).

Rooted in a vision of building a green and climate-resilient Ethiopia, the Green Legacy Initiative was launched in June 2019.

The Green Legacy Initiative is a demonstration of Ethiopia’s long-term commitment to a multifaceted response to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation that encompasses agroforestry, forest sector development, greening and renewal of urban areas, and integrated water and soil resource management. This has made an immense contribution to Ethiopia’s efforts to meet its international commitments, such as the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.

Green Legacy Initiative Expected Impact

Ethiopia’s Green Legacy Initiative has multiple targets, as it naturally touches on various targets of the 2030 Agenda. A contribution to food security is one of the objectives of the Initiative. In 2022 alone, more than 500 million seedlings were plants that have premium values in local and international markets, such as avocados, mangoes, apples, and papayas. This directly feeds into the current drive to become food self-sufficient by promoting sustainable agriculture, as envisaged in Sustainable Development Goal 2. The Initiative is a major flagship project that will help attain its adaptation goals as set in the National Adaptation Plan. Ethiopia is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change.

Frequent droughts, floods, and locust infestations are some of the manifestations of extreme climate events. Over the past four decades, the average annual temperature in Ethiopia is estimated to have risen by 0.37 degrees Celsius each decade. Directly linked to Goal 13 of the SDGs, this Initiative complements Ethiopia’s efforts to reduce its vulnerability. Moreover, forest conservation, reforestation, restoration of degraded land and soil, as well as the promotion of sustainable management of forests Ethiopia’s forest coverage has been declining for decades at an alarming rate.

The Initiative intends to reverse this, as this is unsustainable in a country where 85 percent of the population depends on rainfed agriculture. Overall, the innovative aspect of the Initiative lies in its potential to address multiple objectives. This entails enormous benefits in environmental protection, restoration of overexploited and degraded natural resources such as surface soil and water, halting desertification, and many other interrelated objectives. The enormity of the interlinkages will significantly contribute to Ethiopia’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The Great Green Wall initiative

Similarly, The Great Green Wall initiative is a large-scale project aimed at combating desertification in the Sahel region of Africa, stretching from Senegal to Djibouti. While it is true that the project involves tree planting as a significant component, it encompasses much more than that. The Great Green Wall initiative recognizes that desertification and land degradation in the Sahel region are complex problems that require multifaceted solutions. It seeks to address several interconnected issues, including soil erosion, food security, water scarcity, climate change, and the livelihoods of local communities. The project uses a combination of techniques beyond tree planting, such as sustainable land management practices, agroforestry, and the promotion of alternative livelihoods for local people.

By focusing solely on tree planting, the media overlooks the holistic approach of the Great Green Wall initiative. While the afforestation component is crucial to restoring and increasing vegetation cover, it is just one part of a comprehensive strategy. The initiative aims to create a mosaic of restored landscapes, including forests, grasslands, and agricultural areas, to enhance ecological resilience and promote sustainable land use.

The Great Green Wall initiative is not solely aimed at halting the southward expansion of the Sahara Desert. It also aims to provide various ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation, and the provision of water resources. Additionally, the project seeks to support the socio-economic development of local communities by creating employment opportunities, boosting agricultural productivity, and fostering sustainable economies.

In conclusion, both the Great Green Wall initiative and Ethiopia’s Green Legacy are comprehensive responses to the environmental challenges faced by their respective regions. While tree planting is a prominent aspect, reducing these efforts to a single activity undermines the breadth and complexity of the initiatives. The media should strive to provide a more nuanced analysis by highlighting the multifaceted approaches, broader goals, and potential long-term impacts these initiatives can have on ecosystems, communities, and sustainable development.