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How a Metastasizing Food Crisis Threatens Sudan’s Stability: A Dispatch from Khartoum


Vegetable Market – Khartoum Bahri-Sudan (2012) Photo by, Asim Al-Rasheed Al-Tom

By Peter Schwartzstein, Journalist in Residence

At 10am on a midweek summer morning, the village of Hasa in Sudan’s River Nile state feels all but abandoned. Stray dogs idle in the shade; vultures peck at what remains of a cow carcass. Only in the Nile-side fields, where a few elderly farmers labor, is there any kind of activity. “This is the time when we need to prepare the land. There should be more of us,” the head of the local agricultural association said. “But everyone’s stopped farming. It’s just not possible.”

The scene is similarly disconcerting at the Souk Al-Shaabi, the main market in Omdurman, just across the river from Khartoum. Vendors here struggle to sell anything other than their cheapest produce. Shoppers barter extra furiously, ultimately coming away with many fewer goods than before. At the souk’s entrances, growing crowds of beggars plead for alms – or at least the odd morsel of fruit or vegetable. (more…)

Four North African Nations Sign Water-Sharing Agreement Plan

Photo by DAVID HOLTFour nations, Chad, Egypt, Libya, and Sudan, have signed a Strategic Action Programme (SAP) over the sharing of the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System.  The aquifer lies beneath the four nations and is the largest known “fossil” or non-renewable system in the world.  According to a press release by the International Atomic Energy Agency: (more…)

A Flood of Flood Reports: A global list of recent events

Mandakini-left-bank-broken-bridge-rudraprayag-sangam-gIn the past few weeks, we’ve noticed an unusual number of articles about significant flood events that are occurring, or have recently occurred, around the world.  Though it is far too soon to determine whether or not these floods are associated with climate change, projections for global rainfall variability suggest that more extreme and unpredictable flooding is likely in our future. The first step in preparing for such a future is recognizing and calling attention to these extreme events, and their real human security implications. Such reports are easily lost in the shuffle of the daily news cycle, so we’ve compiled a comprehensive list below. (more…)

Fragile States Add Climate Change and Ocean Acidification to List of Woes

A new report by Oceana shows just how connected our oceans are to human well-being, and how even small changes in the ocean’s pH levels, coupled with climate change, can have profound consequences for security. According to the report, by the middle of this century climate change and ocean acidification may dramatically heighten food insecurity among nations and territories that are heavily dependent on the oceans for sustenance. The report gauges a country’s likely “vulnerability to food security threats from climate change and ocean acidification” by assessing the exposure of its fisheries to climate change and ocean acidification, its dependence on fisheries as a source of sustenance for its population, and its adaptive capacity. (more…)

The U.S. Presidency of the UN Security Council: A Chance to Move Climate Change Up the Agenda

For the month of April, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice will lead the U.S. presidency of the UN Security Council (UNSC), an honor awarded to member nations on a rotating basis.

If Rice’s agenda as ambassador to the UN is any indication, the security implications of climate change should feature as a prominent item during the U.S. presidency. Indeed, when Rice was confirmed as ambassador, she articulated four key areas that she would focus on: “strengthening the capacity of the UN to undertake complex peace operations effectively; addressing climate change; preventing the spread or use of nuclear weapons and working to meet the goals of the Nonproliferation Treaty; and combating poverty, disease, violence and genocide.” (more…)

The Sahel: Weather, Extremism and Weapons

The Economist published an interesting, if alarming, piece on Saturday exploring the explosive intersection of shifting weather patterns, political extremism, and the movement of heavy weapons in the Sahel region of Africa (for those who are unfamiliar, the Sahel constitutes the 5,400 km-wide arid and semi-arid plains south of the Sahara desert, and north of the more water-rich Sudanian Savannahs, stretching like a vast ribbon from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea). (more…)

Building a New Libya in a New Climate: Water as a Key to Cooperation

This blog also appeared on the humanitarian news site, AlertNet

Libya Hurra. Free Libya. This was one of the main rallying cries for the Libyan opposition last year, which with NATO assistance, toppled the brutal 40-year reign of Muammar Gaddafi. But four and a half months after Gaddafi’s downfall, Libya under the leadership of the interim National Transitional Council (NTC) is facing the problem of reconciling the many different “free Libyas” envisioned by different publics, and addressing allegations of some “not-so-free” practices. The eastern region of Cyrenaica, with its capital at Benghazi (the heart of the anti-Gaddafi movement) has declared itself a semi-autonomous region, prompting major protests in both Benghazi and Tripoli. Despite recent successes by the central government, armed militias still roam the country, and the capacity of the government in Tripoli to keep them in check has been questioned. Indeed, the city of Misrata has been described as a virtual “armed city-state” in opposition to the central government. Furthermore, reports of human rights abuses committed against suspected Gaddafi sympathizers, including black African migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, abound.

But while the Libyan government currently seeks in earnest to address these conflicts, it may be less overtly political issues, such as climate change and water resource management, that hold the key to building unity. (more…)