Chad’s population is mostly young, and high youth unemployment has already caused unrest in the capital N'djamena. Vulnerability to climate is made worse by civil unrest or conflict because people cannot receive the help they need during climate-related disasters such as droughts or floods.
Chad also hosts some 300,000 refugees from Darfur on its eastern border with Sudan, according to UN figures, while an additional 67,000 refugees from the Central African Republic are in camps on its southern border. These refugees consume Chad’s limited resources and sometimes compete with the local population. This creates resentment and sometimes violence between the refugees and their hosts.
To make matters worse, the Boko Haram crisis in northeastern Nigeria has spilled over to the Lac region of Chad, which now has more than 60,000 displaced people registered there and several thousand more that are unregistered. This is worrying as the country’s unemployed youth, restless and with plenty of time on their hands, could be at risk of recruitment and radicalisation by Boko Haram.
The way forward
Despite these challenges, there are ways to mitigate the effect of climate change. For instance, farmers in Chad’s semi-arid Sahelian zone have been using an indigenous rainwater harvesting technique called Zaï to successfully grow crops. Zaï involves the digging of small pits and sowing crops in them. The pits retain water for a long period of time and are particularly efficient when there isn’t much rain.
The Zaï technique was enhanced by introducing manure and compost into the pits to provide nutrients to the crops. This helped rehabilitate soils that are heavily degraded and significantly increased the yields of food crops.
Agroforestry, the combining of crops and trees in the same patch of land, can also help mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Tree roots stabilise soils and protect them from eroding during heavy rainfall, while also restoring fertility simply by producing litter which eventually makes its way back into the earth.
Of course, any country would be better placed to deal with climate change if it simply became much wealthier. Chad began producing petroleum in 2003, and it now accounts for 93% of all exports. However, this left the country vulnerable to declines in oil prices. So, when the price did indeed crash in late 2014, Chad suffered a significant loss of revenue. Needless to say, the impact of climate-related disasters such as droughts or floods becomes magnified if the country does not have the resources to combat them.
Chad cannot rely on oil forever. Farming is still the mainstay of its economy and, in the longer term, developing sustainable agriculture and livestock farming will be key in providing employment and maintaining food security.
[This article originally appeared on theconversation.com]
Sustainability Scientist at Lund University, UK.
Photo credits: Lake Chad Basin crisis in January 2017 | Espen Røst, Utenriksdepartementet UD/Flickr.com [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]; Aerial picture of the Lake Chad in 2014 | NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center /Flickr.com [CC BY-NC 2.0]