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In Remote Town in Mali, Africa's Climate Change Future is Now

The debate around Africa and aid will shift from charity to environmental justice

by Madeleine Bunting, Guardian

Dec 13, 2010

But Anakila's plight will come back to haunt us in two ways. The entire debate around Africa and aid will shift in coming years from one dominated by charity and post-imperial responsibility to one framed primarily around environmental justice. The continent is one of the most vulnerable, with many of its delicate ecosystems threatened, as Camilla Toulmin's charts in her book, Climate Change in Africa. It is also the least well equipped to respond – and the least responsible for the coming calamities.

Media attention on the climate change talks in Cancún focus on the negotiations over emission cuts, but equally important is the financing of climate adaptation – at Copenhagen $100bn a year by 2020 was pledged. But the danger is that funding for climate adaptation will be poached from aid budgets. Already the development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, has made it clear that the pledge for foreign aid of 0.7% of GDP inherited from Labour will be used to finance climate adaptation. Ensuring this money reaches communities as marginalised and as poor as Anakila is a huge challenge.

A Missing Generation

The second way in which Anakila affects us is even more direct. In the faces crowded around me, I realized that there was a missing generation. This was a community of the elderly and the very young, with only a few young women – and virtually no young or middle-aged men. If you have ever wondered in Paris, Barcelona or Rome where the men come from who are trying to sell armfuls of jewellery that no one seems to want, then perhaps places like Anakila might be the answer. We met one man who had got as far as Manchester twice – both times turned back.

Migration puts an added burden on the village. Without their labour, it is even harder to sustain and provide for the community; migration accelerates the disintegration of their way of life. The most ambitious and resourceful attempt the dangerous journey to Europe. Many others swell the sprawling growth of Bamako, one of Africa's fastest-growing cities.

As we left Anakila, we were given gifts – fresh milk and two hens. When might this generosity become a demand for environmental justice? When might such visits prompt anger and recriminations instead of smiles and greetings?

Mali is a country of crushing poverty, and the predicted outcomes of climate change could spell catastrophe for much of the country. It's only a matter of time before the demand for compensation becomes the rallying cry for a new generation of activists – not just in Africa, but across the globe.

(UN Photo, Bandiagara, Mali by John Isaac)

See Also

Africa's Agriculture Vulnerable to Breakdown Under Climate Change

EU Land-Grabbing in Africa for Biofuels Is Target of NGO Campaign

As Global Warming Makes Crops Impossible, a Shift to Camels

Nations Threatened by Climate Change Call on Developed World to Give 1.5% of GDP

 

 

Republished with permission.

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