Disaster risk management in Africa: the challenges of climate change

16.11.2015 – In Mozambique, flooding poses an increasing threat. Klaus Töpfer joins Lorenz Petersen (GIZ) and German newspaper Tagesspiegel for a discussion on how people can be protected from the consequences of climate change.

Extreme drought, tornados and floods – climate change is leading to an increase in both the number and intensity of disasters like these all over the world. Mozambique is one of the countries worst affected. ‘The country is barely able to cope with this massive challenge,’ said GIZ climate expert, Lorenz Petersen. The River Buzi, for example, is bursting its banks with increasing regularity. The floodwater threatens the lives of local residents, especially when it catches them unawares in their homes at night.

Using early warning systems for protection

On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, GIZ is supporting Mozambique in coping with the consequences of climate change. ‘Our first priority is to save lives and avoid disasters by investing in simple storm warning systems,’ Petersen explained. ‘As a next step, we investigate whether alternative forms of agriculture are feasible, to be better prepared for extreme weather.’

The past ten years have seen the creation of 670 volunteer committees with more than 8,000 helpers. They regularly measure the water level of the river and send on the data to the analysis and forecasting centre. If there are any irregularities, they inform the first-aiders in the villages, who warn people via radio and megaphone if a disaster is imminent. In the event of flooding, they help to evacuate the villagers to higher ground. For Mozambique, these early warning systems are an important step in adapting to climate change.

Klaus Töpfer, a former Federal Environment Minister from the CDU and long-time head of the United Nations Environment Programme, emphasised the threat to livelihoods posed by climate change and highlighted the need to take action: ‘It is in our interests to make development in these countries more climate-friendly.’ Only then, he said, will it be possible to secure successful sustainable development, especially in the world’s poorest countries.

The ‘Changing World’ forum

The discussion on climate change took place on 10 November 2015 in Berlin between Klaus Töpfer (CDU), Lorenz Petersen (GIZ), Dagmar Dehmer and Ulrike Scheffer (both from Tagesspiegel). ‘Changing World’ is a series of events organised by Tagesspiegel and GIZ that brings together high-profile guests to debate current issues in international development.