Africa rises to challenge of climate crisis, accelerates action on Paris Agreement

While these headwinds are slowing progress to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and targets outlined in the Paris Agreement, nations across the continent are rising to the challenge, and building transformative actions to build climate resilient lives and livelihoods, accelerate the ambition of Nationally Determined Contributions, and build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We must embark on a new pathway so that in 10 years, we can look back on the 2020s as a Decade of Positive Transformation. We have the technology, the finance, and the ingenuity to deal with the climate crisis. And we have a plan – the Paris Agreement. We must go further: To tackle the climate emergency head-on, post-pandemic recovery plans need to trigger long-term systemic shifts that will change the trajectory of CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Indeed, we are starting to see the emergence of collective will – by governments, philanthropists, businesses, financial institutions, communities, and civil society – to realise this greener future,” says UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner, in advance of Africa Climate Week.

Clear and present risks

Rising seas, spiking temperatures, recurrent droughts, flooding, plagues of locusts and other climate change-related impacts are threatening development gains across the continent.

Over 100 million people in Africa are facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity, according to a recent report by the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC). Approximately one in three people face water scarcity, with 400 million people lacking access to basic drinking water supply. Africa also remains largely dependent on low-productivity agriculture and other sectors that are highly sensitive to climate impacts on food, income and employment.

According to the Brookings Institute, “the region is already disproportionately feeling the impacts related to a changing climate. GDP exposure in African nations vulnerable to extreme climate patterns is projected to grow from $895 billion in 2018 to about $1.4 trillion in 2023 — nearly half of the continent’s GDP.”

Recent analysis indicates that it will cost between $150 billion to $350 billion per year to adapt to climate change in Africa by 2070.

Building back better

UNDP’s climate change adaptation portfolio in Africa represents over $300 million in adaptation-related investments from vertical funds such as the Adaptation Fund, Green Climate Fund and Global Environment Facility, and an additional $1.2 billion in leveraged co-finance.

Over 34 million people have benefited from those interventions in terms of increased resilience, increased income opportunities, resilient livelihoods options, and access to climate information for disaster preparedness.

Over half of UNDP’s adaptation portfolio in Africa currently addresses water-related issues, promoting integrated, ecosystem-based, climate resilient management towards water security. Areas of work include watershed management and catchment rehabilitation, sustainable land management, improving access to drinking water and water for domestic usages, coastline protection through soft and hard measures, and promoting integrated water resource management systems.

Countries around the world are rallying behind Africa. Notable initiatives include the Africa Centre for Climate and Sustainable Development and the Africa Adaptation Initiative.

UNDP’s Climate Promise currently supports 42 Africa nations in accelerating the ambition of Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement.


Climate change impacts including drought, desertification, erosion and flooding are pushing farmers in Ghana to the edge. An uptick in increasingly erratic rainfall with long dry periods as the result of climate change is upending age-old farming traditions, derailing development gains, and creating new obstacles as farmers strive to feed their families, and create lasting opportunities.

The Government of Ghana is implementing a livelihoods diversification and water resources project funded by the Adaptation Fund and supported by UNDP that has reached over 11,000 direct beneficiaries (60% women) with new income-generating activities included fish farming, dry season gardening and honey production, among others. Ten community dams were successfully rehabilitated, giving over 20,000 people more reliable access to water for irrigation and animal rearing throughout the year. This means the next time drought hits, local farmers will have a way to keep their crops alive and their families fed.


In Liberia, coastal resilience projects financed by the GEF and GCF are protecting informal settlements, fishermen and valuable coastal infrastructure that is exposed to climate-induced coastal erosion by supporting an integrated approach to coastal zone management as well as the management of coastal ecosystems and mangroves. This is paving the way for further coastal resilience project development under the GCF in Gambia, Mozambique and Nigeria, all focused on helping the most vulnerable urban poor reduce their risk from climate change.


Through the GCF-financed M-Climes project in Malawi, participatory climate services, advanced lightning detection, solar-powered weather stations and other advanced technologies are saving lives and building resilience.

In 2018, the M-Climes project introduced local farmers to the PICSA Approach. This innovative approach aims to help farmers to make informed decisions based on accurate, location-specific climate and weather information, including the adoption of locally relevant crop, livestock and livelihood options. By building participatory tools for decision making, PICSA puts sustainability and locally-driven decision making front and centre.

“We used to farm without following proper methods due to lack of information. I started farming in 1958, but I never realized high yields due to poor farming methods… I started yielding bumper harvests in 2018 after PICSA was introduced to us,” submits Atanazio Chasukwa, 71-year-old farmer.


With funding from the Green Climate Fund and support from UNDP, the Government of Uganda is preserving its wetlands to build a climate-smart economic future and protect one of the country’s most valuable natural assets.

The project is working to restore an estimated area of at least 760km2 of degraded wetlands and associated catchments, while improving the lives of at least 500,000 people living in 20 districts in the Eastern and South Western areas of Uganda, which have experienced the highest levels of wetland degradation and climate change impacts.

“I used to grow rice and vegetables in Limoto wetland to look after my 18 children. However, the project has facilitated us with training and 10 turkeys as an alternative source of income. With the boost of the 10 turkeys, I now believe that I will be able to support my family, pay school fees for my six school-going children and enable me to live a healthy life,” says 59-year-old farmer, Simon Peter Okwalinga.

With funding from the GEF and UNDP, Uganda is addressing the environmental drivers of food security in the Karamoja region, with the objective of fostering sustainability and resilience for food security in that region. The project is addressing drivers of land degradation including weak legal and institutional arrangements stretching from community to sub-national levels, promoting integrated natural resources management for increased sustainable land productivity and monitoring and delivery of global environmental goods and services aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ecosystems adaptation to climate change.

With funding from the European Union through the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and UNDP, Uganda is promoting climate-smart agriculture practices with the objective of enhancing the resilience of agricultural landscapes and value chains in seven districts of Eastern Uganda. The selected value chains include cereals, citrus, pulses, and neem tree for biopesticides supply. The actions intend to deliver adaptation of landscapes to climate change, but also delivery of mitigation results that accrue from climate smart actions.

UNDP through the Climate Promise initiative is also supporting the Ugandan government to revise its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) which is aimed at raising the Country’s ambition and enhance adaptation and mitigation efforts in the context of prioritizing transformative climate action and building resilient and green recovery from COVID-19.


The Government of Zambia, through a United Nations-led partnership including UNDP, FAO and WFP, is leveraging GCF finance to support 3 million small-scale farmers in Zambia in building climate resilient lives.

Implemented by the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture, the SCRALA project is helping farmers in 16 districts across five provinces to cope better with climate change threats through modern technology, sustainable growing techniques and better understanding of climate issues. Since the project was launched in February 2019, over 170,000 small-scale farmers have become involved. Learn more about approaches to build resilience for women in Zambia.

“Climate change is one of the major factors and challenges contributing to low productivity of farmers, especially at small scale level. As government, we are therefore pleased that our partnership with UNDP and GCF, under the SCRALA project, is supporting farmers, especially women, with opportunities and sustainable lifelong solutions to help boost productivity and adaptation to climate change effects,” says Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary, Songowayo Zyambo.

Planning to adapt

UNDP supports eight African countries to implement their National Adaptation Plans through the Green Climate Fund’s Readiness Programme to translate their NAPs into actionable and transformative climate solutions. In 2020, UNDP and FAO launched a new five-year support programme (2020-2025),

Scaling up Climate Ambition on Land Use and Agriculture through Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans (SCALAfunded by the German Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) through its International Climate Initiative (IKI). This programme will support 12 countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Senegal and Uganda, to translate their NDC and NAPs into actionable and transformative climate solutions in land use and agriculture with multi-stakeholder engagement.

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