Lake Chad, once one of the world’s largest water bodies, and is disappearing due to climate change and population pressures, resulting in a humanitarian disaster in central Africa, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned.
The lake – surrounded by Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria – has shrunk by 90%, going from 25,000 km2 to less than 1,500 km2 in 60 years.
Once one of Africa’s largest freshwater bodies and a source of livelihood for about 30 million people; they are now reduced to competing over water, and the drying up of the lake could lead to migration and conflicts (which are among the most severe in the world).
Fish production has recorded a 60% decline, while pasturelands have been degraded, resulting in a shortage of animal feed, livestock and biodiversity.
Droughts, flooding and a shrinking Lake Chad caused in part by climate change are fueling conflict and migration in the region and need to be better addressed
The UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed at a high-level event in 2019 concerning the humanitarian situation in the Lake Chad region alluded that “The widespread violence has left 10.7 million people across the Lake Chad region in need of emergency assistance. Most of these people were already contending with high poverty rates, poor provision of basic services like education and healthcare, and the devastating impact of climate change.
Now 2.3 million people across the region are displaced; over 5 million are struggling to access enough food to survive; and half a million children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition,”
A report by Refugees International published on January 19, 2023, stated that Shrinking natural resources due to adverse weather are heightening tensions across communities and displacing people. Around 3 million people have been displaced and an additional 11 million need humanitarian assistance.
The competition for land, water and food expected has increased — thus the inter-communal fighting and displacement.
But all hope isn’t lost; because it is the face of adversity that calls for the injection of ingenious ideas and innovation especially as it pertains to climate adaptations. For a start it could begin with introducing sustainable agriculture practices: Promote the adoption of climate-smart agricultural techniques such as agroforestry, conservation farming, and precision irrigation.
These methods can help conserve water, enhance soil fertility, and improve crop yields, reducing the pressure on the shrinking Lake Chad Basin.
In addition, other strategies that could be aided better development in the region are:
– A better Unilateral regional cooperation; a collaboration among the countries sharing the Lake Chad Basin to develop joint initiatives for sustainable water management, climate change adaptation, and disaster risk reduction
– Promoting alternative livelihoods and economic diversification, encouraging renewable energy solutions
– Implementing efficient water management techniques, including water harvesting, storage, and distribution systems.
– Also, the importance to raise awareness and education, especially in the communities about climate change and its impact on the Lake Chad basin, and the importance of sustainable practices.
We owe ourselves the duty to rebuild society and claim back climate from degradation. When one suffers, we all suffer too.