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Climate change affects energy sources of Namibian rural dwellers

WINDHOEK (Xinhua) -- Climate change is altering energy source patterns of rural dwellers in northern Namibia.

In the far-flung village in Namibia’s Oshana region, Helena Shilongo, 37, has just returned from a thwarting search for dried cow-dung, used as an energy source to cook.

In the scorching sun, she, however, could only fill her traditional woven basket half-way with dried cow-dung.

“This is becoming an everyday occurrence,” she said on Friday.

Due to harsh climate change and variability, Shilongo now walks extra miles and collects only a handful of cow-dung in the dry area.

With very few trees in sight, access to firewood within her vicinity is an ‘ancient trend,’ lamented Shilongo.

“The cattle perished over the years due to a variable climate. Thus, less manure available nearby. Nowadays, cattle also graze very far from our home due to a lack of pasture. Hence we walk a long distance in search of the cow-dung,” she added.

As a result, she must walk a long distance to ensure she sources cow-dung for fire.

Shilongo’s plight is similar to that of dwellers in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region facing shortages of energy source supplies.

Records show that above 50 percent of the population in the SADC region remain without access to electricity and efficient energy sources.

An environmental expert opines that alterations to energy patterns over the years and access thereof are attributed to climate change and variability.

Walter Tubua, an associate program officer at the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat, said that it is estimated that by 2030, floods in the region will increase by an additional two days and drought with 15 more days.

According to Tubua, since the adoption of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015, temperatures in the SADC region has gone up by two degrees Celsius.

He added that nearly 44 African countries who are signatories to the Paris Agreement are affected by an increase over extreme weather patterns.

Namibia is no exception, as the country’s temperatures have gone up with 1.3 degrees Celsius, said Tubua.

“This will have a great impact on the SADC’s economy given the importance of agriculture to the economy. Majority of people in the region are employed in the agricultural sector,” he added.

The region’s population is largely dependent on land, agriculture, and environment for daily subsistence and water. National statistics show that nearly 70 percent of Namibians depends on agriculture for sustenance.

Tubua thus warned that there is a chance that Namibia’s gross domestic product per capita, which the World Bank placed at 5,227 U.S. dollars in 2017 is vulnerable.

“As temperatures go up, Namibia will be affected because it is not very resilient,” he said.

From where she is, Shilongo said that she already bears the brunt of changing weather patterns.

“Consequently, from walking such long distances, I am less productive on my farm, and economically due to time constraints related to energy sourcing,” she said.

She is not alone. Karina Festus from Oshikoto region in northern Namibia said that the effects of climate change, too, has altered the economics and social relations in her household.

“I work double-shifts, it drains me and impacts my overall productivity, one then also loses prestige, and it further affects power relations across gender. It is difficult,” said Festus.

Consultant and gender expert Edwidge Mutale said that climate change and variability, therefore, affects women on the continent; due to various factors such as culture, patriarchy, and socialization.

According to Mutale, in many African cultures, women are seen as responsible for the upkeep of households, and thus climate change impacts their productivity and increases their vulnerability to other factors including economic and psychological.

“Household economics also perpetuate and or has been identified as one of the contributing factors to gender-based violence,” said Mutale.

Meanwhile, to mitigate the impact of climate change, there has been a drive for robust investment by governments in these sectors, which are some of their primary areas of focus, according to Tubua.

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