It is here that variable means vulnerable. It is in the drylands of Africa, more than anywhere, that climate change and climate variability are leaving their permanent, pernicious mark. In a cruel cascade of events, variability turns out to mean vulnerability. The regions are succumbing to a series of extreme climate events. Rainy seasons are becoming shorter, periods of drought longer. Land is degrading, eroding. Soils are impoverished, and no longer fertile. Shorn of their cover, their rate of evapotranspiration is rising and rainfall, whilst often more intense, is falling in volume. The relationship between climate change and desertification is stark: one provokes the other. The risk is more than ‘just’ environmental. Rural livelihoods are under pressure. Shrinking harvests and water shortages are making paupers of rural communities, exposing them to conflicts on water access, to migration, to hunger, to epidemics … For centuries, the communities of the region have made traditions of their innovations in adaptation. Can those techniques be relevant today? What could be their long-term impact? Is adaptation indeed one way to mitigate Africa’s state of growing vulnerability? And what shared solutions can we realistically expect from the world’s two environmental conventions - UNCCD and UNFCCC - together?
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