22.214.171.124 Access to capital, including markets, infrastructure and technology
Constraints in technological options, limited infrastructure, skills, information and links to markets further heighten vulnerability to climate stresses. In the agricultural sector, for example, many African countries depend on inefficient irrigation systems (UNEP, 2004) which heighten vulnerability to climate variability and change. Africa has been described as the world’s great laggard in technological advance in the area of agriculture (Sachs et al., 2004). For instance, most of the developing world experienced a Green Revolution: a surge in crop yields in the 1970s through to the 1990s as a result of scientific breeding that produced high-yielding varieties (HYVs), combined with an increased use of fertilisers and irrigation. Africa’s uptake of HYVs was the lowest in the developing world. The low levels of technological innovation and infrastructural development in Africa result in the extraction of natural resources for essential amenities such as clean water, food, transportation, energy and shelter (Sokona and Denton, 2001). Such activities degrade the environment and compound vulnerability to a range of stresses, including climate-related stress. Sub-Saharan African countries also have extremely low per capita densities of rail and road infrastructure (Sachs, 2005). As a result, cross-country transport connections within Africa tend to be extremely poor and are in urgent need of extension in order to reduce intra-regional transport costs and promote cross-border trade (Sachs, 2005). Such situations often exacerbate drought and flood impacts (see, for example, the role of information access in IFRCRCS, 2005) as well as hindering adaptation to climate stresses (see Section 9.5; Chapter 17, Section 17.3.2).
126.96.36.199 Population and environment interactions
Notwithstanding the range of uncertainties related to the accuracy of census data, the African continent is witnessing some of the most rapid population growth, particularly in urban areas (Tiffen, 2003). During the period 1950 to 2005, the urban population in Africa grew by an average annual rate of 4.3% from 33 million to 353 million (ECA, 2005; Yousif, 2005). Complex migration patterns, which are usually undertaken to ensure income via remittances (Schreider and Knerr, 2000) and which often occur in response to stress-induced movements linked to conflict and/or resource constraints, can further trigger a range of environmental and socio-economic changes. Migration is also associated with the spread of HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Several studies have shown that labour migrants tend to have higher HIV infection rates than non-migrants (UNFPA, 2003). Increases in population also exert stresses on natural resources. Agricultural intensification and/or expansion into marginal lands can trigger additional conflicts, cause crop failure, exacerbate environmental degradation (e.g., Olsson et al., 2005) and reduce biodiversity (Fiki and Lee, 2004), and this then, in turn, feeds back, via complex pathways, into the biophysical system. Variations in climate, both short and long term, usually aggravate such interactions. Changes in rain-fed livestock numbers in Africa, a sector often noted for exerting noticeable pressure on the environment, are already strongly coupled with variations in rainfall but are also linked to other socio-economic and cultural factors (see, for example, Little et al., 2001; Turner, 2003; Boone et al., 2004; Desta and Coppock, 2004; Thornton et al., 2004).