In a recent article for the BBC, Professor Richard Watson of Oxford University has issued a call to arms over climate change and its impact upon Africa. He describes how despite its own minimal impact upon the global climate crisis, the continent as a whole only produces 4% of global emissions, Africa will suffer disproportionately in the coming years. That is unless we can seek to better understand and limit the effects of climate change across Africa’s diverse patchwork of climate systems.

Professor Watson particularly seeks to highlight the volatility that the climate crisis is inflicting across Africa. This is best encapsulated in the extreme weather events that now characterise climate in Africa. East Africa particularly is experiencing extreme periods of rainfall, as cyclones Idai and Kenneth this year alone demonstrate, followed by ever longer and more intense dry periods. This impact most heavily affects already vulnerable communities living in dryland zones, which make up 40% of the world’s land area, as they are faced with ever more uncertain weather patterns and the resulting insecurity that stems from these.

Whilst the problems of the climate crisis are global in scope and any potential solution must come at an intergovernmental level, there are steps that can be taken to provide greater security for communities at a local level to ensure they are able to better withstand more extreme climate conditions. At Sand Dams Worldwide we believe that sand dams can be an integral part of these solutions. A sand dam is a concrete wall built across a sandy riverbed that can capture up to 40 million litres of water, replenishing every rainy season. That water is stored safe from disease and evaporation within the sand. It’s easily extractable via pipework connected to hand-pumps and taps, with one sand dam providing enough year-round water for over 1,000 people; an essential reservoir when rainfall becomes increasingly unpredictable and intense.

Further, the climate-smart agriculture training (ran alongside many of our sand dam projects) will serve to better protect communities against climate extremes. These allow for more efficient use of water across farmland, as well as encouraging and training farmers to grow drought-resistant crops and trees; precious agriculture that can be used not only to improve their own diets but also to sell for profit.

These projects aim not only to improve the immediate situations of communities that we work with, but also goes some way to preparing communities for a shifting climate where clean water will become an ever more precious, and potentially limited resource.

Ultimately, more must be done at a global scale to support communities across Africa to deal with the huge array of challenges that the climate emergency poses. However, here at Sand Dams Worldwide we hope our work is going some way to helping communities towards water security and providing solutions to ever more extreme climate conditions.

Written by: Freddie Rollason (Sand Dams Worldwide volunteer)

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