At the end of November, representatives from countries around the world will be meeting in Cancun, Mexico to discuss a new package of measures aimed at addressing climate change. According to the United Nations (UN) climate chief, Christiana Figueres, one of the “golden Keys” for any agreement is to ensure there are bridges between rich and poor nations. Poor countries are already accusing Western nations of failing to keep promises of extra climate aid. Bruno Sekoli of Lesotho, who will be leading the group of least developed countries (LDCs), said that promises of additional aid are all very well, but new projects need to be seen on the ground. The LDCs “want action”.
Many of the LDCs are in Africa. The continent produces the smallest amount of greenhouse gases. Yet African countries are the most likely to suffer from global warming, which will cause even more extreme weather conditions, droughts and further expansion of deserts. Already, many rural communities are facing challenges to their traditional livelihoods.
One such community is the Kigoma region of Tanzania. In and around the city, nearly 40 per cent of men rely on Lake Tanganyika for their major source of income. But whereas fisherman used to earn around 27 dollars each day for their catch, now they are lucky to land enough fish for 7 dollars. This means many families are no longer able to afford secondary schooling for their children or serve as much fish at mealtimes. One mother, Mariam Ukwise, says she used to give her children two fish each for their lunch and dinner, but now the family sometimes only have one fish to share or rely on sardines. The scarcity of fish is likely to affect children across the region, since traditionally fish from Lake Tanganyika provided as much as 40 per cent of their protein.
Some environmentalists have blamed shrinking fish stocks on over-fishing and recent research certainly suggests this is a factor. But data also shows that Lake Tanganyika has undergone an unprecedented rise in water temperature over the last one hundred years, recording a surface temperature of 26 degrees Celsius when last measured. Experts say that as the lake gets warmer, they would expect “productivity to decline”.
The situation for local fishermen has become so difficult, that some can no longer afford to cover the costs for the hire of their vessels or for petrol. In response, the Tanzanian government is offering loans on fishing equipment which will help to reduce costs. A programme has also been launched to train men in new skills so that they can take up other forms of living. But even if locals find new ways to support their families, the region faces a huge challenge as the climate warms, depriving the area of the kind of quantities of fish which have helped each generation grow up healthy.