Namibians dread worsening droughts

22 August 2019 | Disasters

While Namibia is battling one of its worst droughts in history a mere 38% of Namibians say that droughts in the country have not become more severe over the past ten years, while 63% feel that climate change is making life harder for them.

This is according to the largest-ever survey of Africans' perceptions of climate change, which has revealed widespread reports of worsening quality of life and deteriorating conditions for agricultural production, as well as limited climate change literacy among average citizens.

In the ninth of its Pan-Africa Profiles series based on recent public-opinion surveys in 34 African countries, Afrobarometer reports that only 34% of Namibians feel that the climate has become much worse for agricultural production over the past ten years.

The report further notes that although 52% of Namibians say they are aware of climate change, only 26% of them actually understand that climate change has negative consequences. According to the report only 16% of Namibians can be considered “climate change literate”, which means they understand it to have negative consequences, and they recognise it as being caused at least in part by human activity. The report adds that 36% of Namibians are aware of climate change and 40% have never even heard of climate change.

Furthermore 30% of Namibians blame human activity for climate change while 22% of Namibians say that both human activity and natural processes are to blame, and 17% feel that they can do little to stop the impact of climate change.

In May this year the current drought in Namibia was declared a national disaster.

This is the third time in six years that the government has declared a state of emergency because of drought. Drought was declared a national crisis in 2013 and in 2016 as well. Since 2013, most parts of Namibia have recorded below-normal rainfall, which has left grazing pastures exhausted and with little recovery.

According to the report climate change is “the defining development challenge of our time,” and Africa is most vulnerable to its consequences.

Long-term changes in temperatures and rainfall patterns are a particular menace to Africa, where agriculture forms the economic backbone of development priorities such as food security and poverty eradication.

The report says that across the continent, among people who have heard of climate change, a large majority say it is making life worse and it needs to be stopped. But four in ten Africans are unfamiliar with the concept of climate change.

Only about three in ten people in Africa are fully “climate change literate,” combining awareness of climate change with basic knowledge about its causes and negative effects.

The report notes that ordinary Africans say climate conditions for agricultural production have become worse in their region over the past decade. Overwhelming majorities see worse weather for growing crops in Uganda (85%), Malawi (81%), and Lesotho (79%).

In most countries, the main culprit is more severe drought, but in Malawi, Madagascar, and eSwatini, most citizens say both droughts and flooding have become worse.

The report says almost six in ten Africans (58%) have heard of climate change, including more than three quarters of Mauritians (83%), Malawians (78%), and Ugandans (78%). South Africa (41%) is one of just five countries where fewer than half of citizens have heard of climate change.

“Groups that are less familiar with the concept of climate change include rural residents, women, the poor, and the less-educated, as well as people who work in agriculture.”

The poor are the most affected by climate change, according to survey responses. Almost three quarters (73%) of poor respondents say climate change is making life worse, compared to 60% of those who are well off. Older respondents are also somewhat more likely to complain about the effects of climate change with 70% of aged 56 and older, compared to 66% of young people.

ELLANIE SMIT

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