Sudan, once the largest and one of the most geographically diverse states in Africa, split into two countries in July 2011 after the people of the South voted for independence. Sudan is located in North-Eastern Africa and is known for its diverse culture; it has an estimated 597 different communities that speak over 400 different dialects. As a developing country, Sudan is highly affected by climate change, which is aggravated by the limited environmental conservation systems, weak infrastructure and economy.
The majority of Sudan’s land is vulnerable to changes in temperatures and precipitation; more than 65% of the population lives in rural areas and they depend directly on resources sensitive to climate change. The food security in these areas is essentially determined by the rate of rainfall; which is erratic and varies significantly from North to South. The average annual temperature in Sudan lies between 26° to 32° and in some places, it reaches 47° which causes a lot of heat-related diseases. The decrease in annual rainfall in the last 60 years and the increase in rainfall variability is contributing to drought conditions in various parts of the country. Drought results in severe social and economic impacts; including the numerous human and livestock fatalities as well as migration and displacement of millions of people, and the numbers are increasing annually.
Apart from drought, Sudan also experienced many floods in the past decades and other climate extreme events; such as heat waves, dust storms, and thunderstorms which cause serious threats to people’s lives. Climate change has various social impacts associated with it. For example, during the flood and drought seasons, huge numbers of people migrate to places that lack the basic necessities of life, which helps life-threatening diseases in spreading and leads to disturbances that undermine stability and security. The majority of people in Sudan are living under harsh circumstances while the level of awareness about the connection of some of the most urgent issues to climate change is very low. Limited efforts have been spent to foster awareness of climate risks to food security which, in my opinion, is the most dangerous impact. Due to political instability, the government institutions are subject to changes often and therefore they have limited incorporation of multilateral environmental agreements; such as the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Image Credit: Jiro Ose
Sudan suffered a lot from climate change impacts; the first climate war in history is actually the war in Darfur. One of the war’s major causes was the increasing intensity of natural disasters in Sudan, leaving the Northern Darfur areas unfit for grazing, which in turn forced the people of the North to flee towards the south and settle on the farmers lands. There is no doubt that other elements such as power struggles and tribalism were part of the escalation of the conflict, however, climate change remains a major cause of this conflict. In 2008 the United Nation estimated that the Darfur war led to the displacement of more than one million people and killed over 300,000.
From an environmental point of view, Sudan is considered one of the countries that contribute very little to the emission of greenhouse gasses that lead to the increase in temperature of Earth’s surface causing climate change. Nevertheless, this does not mean that Sudan should not contribute to the fight against climate change. On the contrary, developing countries like Sudan are actually the major key to the success of the global negotiations on climate change and the adoption of renewable energy.
On the national front, Sudan needs to start initiatives to achieve food security and enhance coping capacity for small-scale farmers and pastoralists, plant shelter-belts which create favorable micro-climates, reduce water consumption to reach sustainability and protect farms from hot winds and wind-blown sands. In addition, Sudan needs to focus on developing organic and drip-irrigated agriculture, providing drinking water using solar pumping in rural areas which saves time and gives children a chance to join school instead of transporting water between their homes and nearby wells, and enhance women empowerment by supporting women’s organizations to raise awareness of the crucial role of women in development and decision-making.