With daily battles to live above subsistence level, constant reminders to follow the money trail in career and professional choices, a turbulent political clime and the threat of annihilation through terrorism or disease, it may seem foolhardy to ponder on all the impassioned rhetoric on climate change and its present and future effects, let alone invest time and resources in acquiring the requisite skills to be an effective crusader………
Let Professor Anthonia Ifeyinwa Achike, the Director of the Africa Climate Change Adaptation Initiative, University of Nigeria Nsukka (ACCAI-UNN) disabuse your mind of every faulty notion and inspire you to take a stand for your future today.
Like a popular advert goes; “if you don’t take care of ‘earth’ who will?”
The change begins with you!!!
K.A: Climate change has become a reality with deleterious effects in Africa, yet, a good number of people remain ignorant and unaware of this phenomenon. Do give a brief explanation of this subject; how does it affect us as Africans?
Prof. Achike: You are quite correct about the reality of climate change threats in Africa (and the entire world) as well as the relatively low level of awareness of climate change issues by the African society. This apparent ignorance cuts across different facets of the society including private and public sectors, civil societies organizations, professionals, farmers etc. It is important to note that the status of farmers are of utmost concern to most scholars when it comes to the issue of climate change in Africa because over 70% of livelihoods of Africans are based on agriculture which depends much on weather and soil conditions. Agriculture, especially crop production in Africa relies much on water availability, a condition that subjects the industry to the vagaries of climate change and the attendant adverse effects.
According to reports of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Africans especially Sub-Sahara Africans are more vulnerable to climate change and unfortunately they have the least capability of adapting to its deleterious effects. This has been responsible for crop yield losses, disease outbreaks that affect humans, livestock and crops; loss of fishing grounds and water bodies; extreme weather events such as flood, desertification with the associated consequences of famine, massive death of livestock and communal conflicts that arise from what we now call “environmental migration” as has been recently witnessed in Nigeria between Fulani nomads and crop farmers in the middle belt and some other parts of Nigeria.
There are many other threats to sustainable livelihood and agricultural development. In spite of the hazards, it is sad to note that many people especially farmers in Nigeria know very little about basic characteristics and adaptation measures for climate change vis-a-vis sustainable agriculture. Despite all these, it is quite doubtful whether farmers and indeed actors in other weather dependent occupations know immediately what constitutes the “symptoms” of climate change and the best responses to climate change when such agricultural practices as it requires are outside their range of experience. These facts, according to Madison (2006) account for a period of transitional losses of unknown duration as a result of adapting to climate change. Such losses are immense when quantified and the best way forward is not to lament about the losses but to put in place actions that will help farmers and other members of the society adapt to climate change effects in Africa.
In terms of definition, we follow IPCC to define climate as average weather of a place which represents the state of the climate system over a given time period and is usually described by the means and variation of variables such as temperature, precipitation, and wind, most commonly associated with weather. There are differences between climate change and climate variability. IPCC also defined them as follows: Climate variability refers to variations in the mean state and other statistics (such as standard deviations, the occurrence of extremes, etc.) of the climate on all temporal and spatial scales beyond that of individual weather events. Variability may be due to natural internal processes within the climate system (internal variability), or to variations in natural or anthropogenic external forces (external variability). Climate change, on the other hand refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.
K.A: Adapting to climate variability and mitigating its impacts is something that most people do every day. What precautionary measures must everyone take to reduce their vulnerability?
Prof. Achike: Though people naturally exhibit some adaptive responses to climate variability, there still exist different levels of vulnerability to climatic changes. The first precautionary measure is a clear understanding of the issues at stake including the underlying threats so that one can appropriately adjust by adapting and/or mitigating when the need arises.
The foregoing presupposes that in the face of the threats or risks of climate change, the options left are mitigation and adaptation. Climate change mitigation are actions to limit or stop the magnitude and/or rate of long-term climate change (e.g. reductions in human emissions of greenhouse gases); while adaptation may be referred to as anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimize the damage they can cause.
While mitigation may be very difficult and expensive especially for individuals and even government, concerted policy based efforts on adaptation are on-going. Mitigation alone cannot solve the problem as climate change and variabilities have components that are outside the control of human beings. Therefore adaptation is important as a necessary complement. Mitigation relative to adaptation requires a lot of policies not just simple “precautionary measures by individuals” as you said.
There are however some things individuals can do to contribute to climate change reduction, adaptation and mitigation drive. For instance every individual needs to: educate himself/herself and others more about the climate change risks and the realities of adaptation. There is need for consciousness on the part of individuals to build capacity in adapting to climate change effects irrespective of his/her field in the economy in order to adapt to climate change. Activities that lead to pollution of the environment must be curtailed.
We can adopt recycling of some products, avoid unnecessary wastages in our daily production and consumption processes. In the farms there are different adaptive technologies which should be used for improved irrigation, water harvesting, improved varieties that will withstand drought and have short growing periods, terracing, reforestation and afforestation, (i.e. planting of trees); water and soil conservation etc. The campaign for climate change adaptation should begin in our school system – primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. Appropriate topics on the subject of climate change adaptation should be included in the school curricular. Architects, artisans, pharmacists, inventors, even artists and scholars have various roles to play in raising the awareness of climate change and encouraging creation of innovative tools and strategies for adaptation in their fields.
For instance, tailors and textile workers have to design products that will enable the customers adapt to prevailing climate conditions; the engineer have to design tools that will be used in the household, farms and industries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases as well as make use of renewable energy sources. Individuals can take advantage of climate change by engaging in innovative business such as designing solar energy based products, marketing of such products and utilizing inputs that will not give harmful effluents in the environment. We must think green economy and green business. There is much to be done by the individuals but the governments, firms and international agencies also have a lot to do too.
K.A: Kindly tell us a bit about yourself; ethnicity, education, professional accomplishments.
Prof. Achike: I am Anthonia Ifeyinwa Achike, an indigene of Onitsha in Anambra State. I am a Professor (with a Ph.D.) of Agricultural Economics, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Amongst other academic exposures, I have attended several training courses on quantitative & qualitative analysis, gender, poverty, policy and other development issues organized by different institutions.
Furthermore, I was a laureate of the CODESRIA Gender Institute, Dakar – Senegal and the Social Science Academy of Nigeria Gender Institute. I was trained on time series econometrics and game theory by the African Economics Research Consortium (AERC), as well as on poverty mapping by the Poverty and Economic Policy (PEP) research network in Manila Philippines. I have severally participated as a consultant and trainer in many gender evaluations, mainstreaming and training activities at both national and international levels; and have conducted baseline studies for many national and international organizations.
I have served the University of Nigeria in many capacities including as Head of Department and chairperson of several committees, and presently, the Director of the Africa Climate Change Adaptation Initiative, University of Nigeria Nsukka (ACCAI-UNN). In addition, I am a member of several international and national professional bodies including African Association of Agricultural Economists, Nigerian Association of Agricultural Economists and an Associate Fellow of the AfriHeritage Institution. I have competed for and won several national and international research grants and successfully completed the projects. As a researcher, I have executed several projects both within and outside the country under the auspices of such agencies as Poverty and Economic Policy (PEP) Network, Community Based Poverty Monitoring System (CBMS), Agriculture, Agroforestry and Natural Resources Education (ANAFE) network, African Women in Science and Technology (AWFST), a programme of the African Technology Policy Studies (ATPS) and the Trade Policy Training Centre in Africa (TRAPCA) to mention a few. I have several academic publications comprising journal articles, conference proceedings and technical reports to my credit. Finally, I am happily married with children.
K.A: What makes you very passionate about this subject?
Prof. Achike: It is a livelihood issue that encompasses every aspect of human life including the environment, health, wealth and sustainability for the present and future generations. For me, talking about climate change education vis a vis adaptation is like preaching the gospel, which is about good life. It is as serious as that because if the associated disaster is allowed, it claims lives in thousands as we currently see in some countries across the globe. Indeed, ability to understand and manage climate change and the attendant issues can make or mar any society.
K.A: Currently, Nigeria is torn between excessive dryness mainly in the arid and semi-arid areas in the north and extreme wetness in the south. Do you think the government and the media are doing enough to curb this menace?
Prof. Achike: Well, we must acknowledge that Nigeria, as a country is facing a lot of challenges at the moment which can even distract the government from facing certain programmes already recommended or mounted. Some of these challenges include terrorism (especially recent Boko Haram insurgency) and most recently the Ebola Virus outbreak. Now before these issues came on board, Nigeria has faced the challenges of desertification in the Northern part of the country before the issue of flooding especially that of 2012 which was very impactful. Also recently many communal and ethnic crises over land use for agriculture arising from migration of nomads away from environmental crisis of desertification.
All these challenges have resulted in the loss of lives and properties worth billions of Naira. Though our government has tried to manage these challenges, more was expected from Federal and State governments to address the issue of flooding in the middle belt and the southern parts of the country in recent years. There are also no clear cut and sustainable policies on ground to address the root causes of conflicts arising from environmental migration in Northern Nigeria. The government as a matter of urgency should address these environmental challenges.
On the part of the media, one can say that they have tried, but can do more. For instance, climate change awareness campaign needs to be up-scaled. Many Nigerians still feel that it is the usual temporary change in weather which has been in existence and which nature will take care of. We cannot afford to remain at this level of ignorance if government and the media are living up to expectation.
K.A: Do tell us about the Africa Climate Change Initiative (ACCAI); its role and your intended extent of impact.
Prof. Achike: ACCAI-UNN is a climate change adaptation programme was established in the University of Nigeria in 2010 with the aim of building Trans-disciplinary Climate Change Adaptation Capacity at the University. The programme is sponsored by the Open Society Foundation (OSF), under the Higher Education Support Programme (HESP) of the United States of America. Six other universities in Africa are participating in the programme, namely:
University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
University of Ghana
Mekelle University, Ehtiopia
University of Nairobi,Kenya
University of Witwatersrand, South Africa
Among the role expectations of ACCAI are:
Building of the human capacity needed to address climate change adaptation that meet African’s unique needs through University – based curricular for conventional post graduate degrees ( PGD, M.Sc. and PhD ) and short training courses for a wide range of professionals from all sectors;
Implementing action –oriented research activities, including research into climate change adaptation technologies, that will help to improve the climate adaptation capacity of the African peoples;
Providing the needed framework for national and regional policy assessment and advice to public and private sector actors;
Including various communities within the African region in its programme execution and implementation of research findings; and
Providing the basis for adaptation of international best practices in climate change issues and collaboration with similar or related facilities across the world.
ACCAI-UNN is managed by Programme Implementation Committee (PIC) constituted by the Vice Chancellor. The PIC draws membership from several departments of the university in line with the trans- disciplinary nature of the subject. The sixteen-man committee is currently chaired by the Deputy Vice chancellor (Academics) – Professor P.E Chigbu, while I, Professor (Mrs.) Anthonia Achike is the Director in charge of the day-to-day administration of the programme.
Other members of the technical committee include:
Prof. Eric Eboh (Research Coordinator)
Prof. (Mrs.) F.N Okeke
Prof. Osita Ogbu
Prof. E Anugwom (Media and Publications Coordinator)
Prof. B. Ogwo (Coordinator of Trainings)
Prof. Carl Okezie
Prof J.C Okeibunor
Rev.Fr. Prof. Ichoku (Member, Task Team)
Dr. Barr. E. Onyeabor
Dr (Mrs.) U Okoye
Dr (Mrs.) Joy Ezeilo
Mrs. Julia Agwu (Member, Task Team)
The stakeholders/target audience of ACCAI-UNN programme activities are State and National Ministries, Universities, Institutes, Industries, Policy makers, NGOs, CSOs and any candidate that is qualified for university admission. The components of ACCAI-UNN programmes are hinged on three pillars namely:
Community Outreach/ Training:
Some of ACCAI-UNN’s expected output and extent of impact include, to:
have a critical mass of University faculties trained in trans-disciplinary approaches to Climate Change Adaptation teaching, research and learning in Africa contribute to the African agenda on climate change informed by knowledge from all knowledge communities have trans-disciplinary Climate Change Adaptation programs effectively running in Nigeria and African Universities ensure that through ACCAI, a strong foundation for world-class teaching, research and outreach on climate change adaptation be operational in our University.
So far in ACCAI-UNN, we have commenced Postgraduate programmes (PGD, M.Sc. and PhD) in Climate Change Economics Policy and Innovation (CCEPI). Under an ACCAI-UNN coordinated programme, seven students of UNN are currently studying in other Universities abroad on full scholarship and on exchange programmes. Some of our staff are also carrying out their researches in in other universities where appropriate research facilities were located. UNN is also hosting seven students from different countries universities. This encourages cross fertilization of climate change knowledge and adaptation measures across citadels of learning in Africa.
From the fore going one can say that the global concern for Climate Change issues makes ACCAI-UNN an emerging unit of the university that holds the potential of not only offering our students new opportunities for research within and outside the country, but also positively impacting on our communities that are now facing the devastating effects of climate change.
We are optimistic that in no distant time ACCAI-UNN will become a full-fledged University of Nigeria Climate Change Centre.
To be continued next week Monday…
To read the concluding part of this interview, go here.
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