WINDHOEK, April 23 (Xinhua) -- As the world marks Earth Day, a geology
scientist calls on Africans to be more proactive and invest in alternative
energy to stem deforestation and spur development.
Professor Benjamin Mapani, who teaches geology at the University of
Namibia and conducts research on the impacts of climate change, said
climatic patterns are changing drastically, and that rural communities
will bear the brunt of climate change.
"In the 1970s we used to have floods and droughts but not as frequently
as now. We can no longer use droughts as a clock," Mapani told Xinhua.
"In African tradition we used to use droughts and floods as indicators
of the past. We are losing certain plant species such as the famous Quiver
tree in Namibia and we are getting a lot of invasive species which can
flourish when there is no sufficient rainfall," he said.
He said climatic changes are being observed in countries including Zimbabwe,
Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa which are lately getting unusually
high rainfall and unusually drought which never used to happen.
"To read these patterns we use certain indicators like plants and
water. If we look at rainfall patterns for about 18 years in Namibia – before
that there were no accurate records of rainfall patterns – we see
basic changes and we think this is being induced by climate change," he
Mapani believed that climate change will hit poor people in Africa hard
and present serious challenges to African governments. He said such challenges
will include providing food to rural people as well as repairing and
rebuilding infrastructure damaged by floods.
"Our communities in Africa are mostly subsistence communities that
depend on the whims and changes in the weather patterns," he said.
"Our agriculture can be termed as 80 percent rain-fed agriculture.
Most of the rural communities rely on rain. There is no way African governments
can afford to give food handouts from their own budgets to their communities.
Food security will be a big challenge," he added.
"Local communities are beginning to be aware of the changes that
are happening. I am studying bees with a colleague and we have observed
that bees are moving from certain areas and going toward others. That
is not good for the diversity of plant species, " he said.
The research Mapani and his colleagues are involved in includes looking
at groundwater aquifers to see how they are being affected by climatic
"We are also looking at diversity of species. Our colleagues in
the biological sciences are looking at the coastline and the impact of
diminishing sediment flow into the ocean as a result of changes in moisture
on the continent," he said.
"There are some groups in South Africa who are looking at land
fertility as a result of oversupply and undersupply of water. Most of
the people who are putting efforts are from outside the continent," he
said, adding that this showed that the people of Africa were not being
proactive over climate change.
He would like to see more coordinated research on climate change the
continent and an end to the seemingly never-ending blame game between
the north and the south over who is liable for climate change.
He also would want to see more effort towards the provision of electric
energy to more people on the continent.
"I think we have not taken this energy to where it is required
- the rural areas. In the 1980s, Zimbabwe promoted the use of gas in
the villages and there was reduction in deforestation. However, that
model was never extended to other countries. For me, deforestation is
a prime worry. People need energy. They have to cook and one cannot just
tell them to stop cutting trees without providing alternative energy," he
He found it ironic that countries like Germany and Australia where the
sun is not strong are far more advanced in making use of solar energy
than African countries.
"We should be moving in that direction. If we give people energy,
the process of development will be very fast," he said.