Feature Story

Realizing the African Dream: With continued support for low-carbon, climate-resilient development, the nations of Africa are rising to the challenges of climate change

December 14, 2018

African women play a central role in achieving zero hunger and protecting our planet. Photo: UNDP.
African women play a central role in achieving zero hunger and protecting our planet. Photo: UNDP.

The people of Africa live on the frontlines of climate change. While the continent as a whole is rising – with strong economic growth and social progress over the past 10 years – droughts, floods, rising seas, and ever-more intense storms threaten to derail these gains, reinforce hard-to-break poverty traps, and unravel our global race to end poverty and hunger by 2030.

Building climate resilience, protecting forests, improving governance, empowering women and children, and ensuring clean energy growth in Africa will be a cornerstone in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined in the 2030 Agenda. It will also help us to keep temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees and protect our little planet from the catastrophic risks that climate change brings.

In a new report from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), milestone achievements in building resilience for the people of Africa are explored, shedding light on how future climate change adaptation actions should be formulated to mainstream, accelerate and scale-up the successes of these pioneering first-generation of climate resilience projects. The report takes a close look at climate change adaptation projects funded through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and other vertical funds from 2000 to 2015.

UNDP supports 216 active projects in 45 countries in Africa for a total grant amount in finance from vertical funds of US$828 million. Take a look at how the people of Africa, with support from the United Nations, donor bodies such as the Global Environment Facility and Green Climate Fund (GCF), and other leaders in the international community are making good on these global compacts to empower a more climate resilient future for the people of Africa and driving the SDGs.

Goal 1: No poverty

Over 40 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa live in extreme poverty, with unemployment for young people hovering at around 20 percent. Building climate resilience on and off the farm will support improved economic growth and poverty reduction. Promoting ecosystem-based farming practices, improving access to water and irrigation, and promoting diversified livelihoods will be especially important. In Ethiopia for instance, a government-led project supported through the UNDP and financed through the GEF Least Developed Countries Fund, supported the introduction of cash crops, high-tech solar-powered irrigation systems and new farming techniques to help farmers like Apiyeiw Akwor to double the productivity on their farms and increase earnings substantially – no matter what weather comes their way.

Goal 2: Zero hunger

For the first time in over a decade, world hunger is on the rise, affecting 11 percent of the global population, according to recent estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Conflict and climate are the main drivers for this spike in hunger. “In Africa, crop destruction from the fall army worm, strong droughts induced by an abnormally strong El Nino cycle, and a rise in conflict in places such as Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan, were the chief culprits in a serious rise in food insecurity in 2017. At the peak of the El Niño crisis from 2014 to 2016, some 40 million people in Africa required emergency assistance,” according to the new UNDP report. Numerous UNDP-supported climate change adaptation projects work toward the goal of ending hunger. For instance the Canada-UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Facility is improving water access and management, introducing new varieties of crops, and strengthening alternative livelihoods that are not dependent on climate-sensitive natural resources in six countries worldwide, include the African nations of Cabo Verde, Mali, Niger and Sudan.

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

Climate change is forcing humans, insects and animals to compete for dwindling habitats and natural resources. This is threatening food security and access to reliable healthy food, and can be linked with an increase in vector-borne diseases, including the widespread Ebola crisis in West Africa from 2014 to 2016 that took over 11,000 lives. According to the UNDP report, “Addressing climate drivers in Africa requires a continued focus on human development. As we take steps to mainstream and accelerate a new generation of climate change adaptation and mitigation projects designed to address both baseline needs as well as long-term targets for environmental protection and economic and social development, these projects need to connect climate drivers with community development, community development with zero-carbon growth, and zero-carbon growth with a climate-resilient future.”  

Goal 4: Quality education

In countries like Mali, where a GEF-financed UNDP-supported project worked with women's organizations to provide them with multi-functional platforms that helped women make more money, diversify incomes, and lower the time required to collect drinking water and firewood, access to quality education is improving. With more disposable income and more empowered lives, women have more time to care for their children and a better chance of sending them to school. Scholarships for advanced training in climate change planning and meteorological forecasting are being provided across the region.

Goal 5: Gender equality

The women of Africa play a central role in achieving zero hunger and protecting our planet. In Niger, for instance, collective gardens are boosting the status of women in their communities and girls are finding new opportunities for diversified incomes with sewing cooperatives.

Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation

Seventeen countries in Africa have been supported in adopting integrated water resources management policies with support from UNDP. In São Tomé and Principe for instance, a comprehensive plan for the Provaz River Basin provides water for over 8,000 people. Together with UN Environment, UNDP supported the installation of over 35,000 meters of a water distribution network and an automatic water treatment unit, benefitting almost 80,000 residents in the city of Moron in Comoros.

Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy

A new GCF-financed project in Mauritius will support national goals to increase renewable energy to 35 percent by 2025 and reduce carbon dioxide output by 4.3 million tons. The project aims to reduce fossil fuel imports and accelerate the nation’s shift to a low-carbon economy over a period of 20 years.

“This is an important step in achieving the goals outlined by the Paris Agreement and supporting low-carbon, climate-resilient development in Mauritius. This pioneering work by the Government of Mauritius will inform future climate actions in Small Island Developing States the world over.” - UNDP Officer in Charge, Mrs. Aida Cisse Diagne.

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth

Across Africa, women are doing lots of unpaid work (gathering wood and water, taking care of children, cooking and doing household chores). UNDP-supported initiatives in the region are looking to women as key agents of climate action to build decent work and economic growth. New access to water, better environmentally friendly cooking stoves and other time-saving initiatives are helping women to reallocate time to more productive roles such as raising animals, growing crops, taking part in cottage industries and supporting the marketing of agricultural products.

Goal 9: Industry, innovation, and infrastructure

With financial support through the vertical funds, 18 countries in Africa have improved access to climate information and early warnings in recent years. This means 800,000 people in Benin have access to early flood warnings. It means in Sierra Leone new leap-frogged technologies are being combined with an end-to-end systems approach to ensure long-term sustainability. It means that over a million people in Malawi will have access to life saving early warnings and valuable information that can improve productivity on the farm and protect valuable infrastructure. UNDP supports a “New Vision for Climate Services in Africa” that calls for enabling actions by African leaders to support the sustainability of investments in weather and climate services, looking toward public-private partnerships, next generation weather and water monitoring technologies, regional cooperation and capacity building as key drivers to resolve sub-Saharan Africa’s persistent challenges in maintaining sustainable climate information and early warning systems.

Goal 10: Reduced inequalities

In the Democratic Republic of Congo women are leading local development committees and improving sustainable forest management efforts, while in the Congo Basin, São Tomé and Principe, and Sierra Leone women are being engaged to support the dissemination of early warnings. All this means that despite the disrupting factors brought on by climate change, women, youth, indigenous peoples and people with disabilities will all be part of the global efforts to reach the 2030 goals. In short, no one should be left behind in realizing the African dream.

Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities

The coastal city of Buchanan in Liberia is being protected from sea level rise and coastal erosion with the construction of over 600 meters of breakwater. The GEF-financed project has helped secure the livelihoods of some 5,000 residents, allowed for the restoration of businesses and residential centers, increased private sector investment, and promoted the reclamation of land that had previously been abandoned because of severe erosion.

Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, local communities are embracing environmental protection in the pursuit of economic prosperity. Through a coastal resilience project financed through the GEF, local communities are finding new ways to diversify their incomes and move away from cutting down mangroves. In Comoros, new climate-smart varieties of banana, tubers and vegetables are being introduced to create green value chains.

Goal 13: Climate action

Climate action requires integrated approaches. Think about the case of Uganda, where serious droughts are threatening food security. To tackle these challenges the Government of Uganda is taking a multi-pronged approach. To start with, the country is working to integrate agriculture in National Adaptation Plans with the support of a joint FAO-UNDP initiative called the NAP-Ag programme. It’s also modernizing its Meteorology Department with concerted efforts to deploy more effective weather and water monitoring systems across the country and leverage public-private partnerships to improve the dissemination of valuable climate information. These projects are all working to build the enabling environments required to take these measure to scale. In 2017, Uganda launched a GCF-financed wetlands project that will protect this valuable ecosystem and ensure climate resilient livelihoods for the 4 million people that rely on the wetlands for food, economic growth and prosperity.

Goal 14: Life below water

Now is the time to scale up these actions. In an effort to achieve its Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement and the bold goals outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to end poverty and hunger worldwide in the next 12 years, the Government of Sierra Leone recently launched a new project financed through the GEF that will build resilience for its coastal residents and employ cutting-edge ecosystem-based approaches to restore mangrove habitats and protect against rising seas, rising temperatures and uncertain climate futures.

Goal 15: Life on land

With support from the vertical funds, 34 African countries are adapting sustainable forest management practices. This means support for mountain ecosystem-based adaptation as in Uganda, biodiversity projects that are protecting critical species and habitats, and projects to improve land and ecosystem management in places like Senegal.


African countries are adapting sustainable forest management practices to help protect critical species and habitats and improve land and ecosystem management. Photo: UNDP.

Goal 16: Peace, justice, and strong institutions

Working with UN Environment through the National Adaptation Plans Global Support Programme (NAP-GSP) and FAO through the Integrating Agriculture in National Adaptation Plans Programme (NAP-Ag), UNDP supports the advancement of National Adaptation Plans projects across Africa. In places like Uganda and Kenya, this means policy makers are being connected with gender-responsive approaches for climate action. A new-generation of NAPs projects financed through GCF are currently starting implementation, meaning new opportunities for improved climate governance in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Niger.

Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals

UN coalitions are coming together to support Zambia in reducing poverty, improving food security and ensuring no one is left behind in the race to meet the Paris Goals and SDGs. Through a United Nations-led partnership including FAO, UNDP and WFP, the Government of Zambia recently accessed US$32 million from the Green Climate Fund for a 7-year, US$137 million project that will support nearly 1 million farmers in Zambia in building climate resilient lives.


This story was originally published by UNDP.