Education South Sudan

The Case Of Climate Change And Human Security In South Sudan

A Policy Strategy Paper On Adapting To The Negative Impacts Of Climate Change:

The Case Of Climate Change And Human Security In South Sudan

By Boboya James Edimond Barnaba

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management

Brandeis University

October 2015


This policy paper is written in response to the negative impacts of climate change. The paper takes the case of Climate Change and Human Security in South Sudan. This paper asserts that indeed climate change is being experienced in South Sudan and its negative impact on Human Security is now a reality. The paper focuses on the whole of South Sudan. In order to provide a framework for narrowing some of the gaps that exacerbates the negative impacts of climate change as the case may be to human security. The paper will be informed by some literatures from other countries facing similar challenges. In addition the link between climate change, human security and conflict will also be highlighted as evidence suggest that in recent years, climatic changes compounded by the legacy of a civil war spanning three decades have resulted in a dramatic increase in both the frequency and the intensity of the violence associated with cattle raiding among pastoralists in South Sudan.

“Poor communities can be especially vulnerable, in particular those concentrated in high-risk areas. They tend to have more limited adaptive capacities, and are more dependent on climate-sensitive resources such as local water and food supplies” (Ben Wisner, 2007. p. 1).

Climate change is becoming one of the threats in South Sudan besides many other challenges. The negative impact of climate change is reported to be affecting the majority of the South Sudanese given its population of 12,340,000 people according to the 2015 estimate (United Nations world population prospects, 2015). As a matter of fact, the impact of climate change in South Sudan has not been known until recently. It is important to bring the issue of climate change to the forefront of the public discourse because its impact is likely to undermine the capacity of states to provide the opportunities and services that help people to sustain their livelihoods. South Sudan is facing a number of challenges right now. Some of the well-known challenges include; above all poor governance which has led to poor economic development, corruption, political instability, ineffective rule of laws and institutions (African Economic Outlook Report, 2015). Now adding the negative impacts of climate change to these challenges the situation may be threatening to the South Sudanese survival and the human security may be expensive too. Considerably, South Sudan needs to categorically consider increasing its adaptive capacity to avert such consequences.

Many reports suggest that, the trends of climate change constitute a serious threat to the survival of a vast proportion of the population of South Sudan where traditional livelihoods rely on a combination of agricultural production. As reported by FAO and the World Food Programme, the South Sudanese population relay on agricultural production which approximately accounts for 85% of households cultivate land and cattle rearing which account for approximately 65% of households. Another livelihood of the South Sudanese people is supplemented by fishing, gathering of wild foods, and trade (FAO/WFP, 2012). With this in mind, recent finding indicates that at least a million South Sudanese were severely food insecure in 2012, while 4.7 million faced pressures on their food security that year, food shortages have led to higher levels of malnutrition and increased mortality rates. These factors are linked the negative impacts of climate Change and this can be directly link to the human security (FAO/WFP, 2012).

Some reports have indicated that, there is an expected change in weather patterns which will exacerbate existing household vulnerabilities and to exceed current coping mechanisms, limiting still further poor people’s capacity to maintain sustainable livelihoods and if this poor people are not able to maintain sustainable livelihoods their human security and wellbeing are likely to be at jeopardy. Some specific indications pointed to the fact that expected impacts of climate change are increased water scarcity, accelerated desertification, biodiversity and soil erosion processes, decreased productivity and drop in crop yields is predicted. The damage that is caused by more extreme climate events such as droughts and floods could also increase health-related illnesses, and higher risk of pest and disease outbreaks (UNEP, 2007). It can also be highlighted that environmental change does not undermine human security in isolation from a broader range of social factors. These include, among other things, poverty and also the degree of support (Barnett and Neil, 2007).

Discussion on the Negative Impacts of Climate Change and Human Security

There is no doubt that humans are driving a gradual warming of the planet and are responsible for changes in hydrological cycles. The reality is that climate change is being experienced every single time. Some indication have revealed that, as meteorological disasters become more frequent and intense with global warming, already struggling societies will be weakened further, making them more vulnerable to political instability, as in South Sudan.

As has been noted the reliance of individual households in South Sudan on the various livelihood strategies practice varies from state to state. Most individual households depend on multiple foods and revenue-generating activities to diversify their options and minimize the risks but still their dependence on these livelihoods can be scarce and once they are as currently broader pattern evidenced will lead to insecurity. Further, highlights from the Youth, Climate Change, and Peace in South Sudan report, (2013) that climate change is likely to be felt as longer dry seasons and more prone drought (Marisa, 2013). Indication suggests that if such situation occurs it may exacerbate the factors that drive conflicts over access to resources. Conflicts over access to resources due to climate change can impact of South Sudanese human Security. Given this point it will be paramount for South Sudan to exert efforts to promote climate change adaptation and environmental sustainability that can strengthen peace- and nation-building initiatives, especially when they benefit from the participation of all population as primary stakeholders.

This paper argues that the negative impact of climate change in South Sudan may be drastic if climate change is to likely hit most parts of East Africa. Majority of South Sudan agricultural production is as a means of escaping extreme poverty. Some valuable food the South Sudanese produce are sold to bring income which intern are used for supporting health and education as government is not able to fully support these services.

Generally speaking, it can be said that, the negative impacts of climate change is when there is a decreasing and irregular rainfall as a result of external factors such as global warming and local environmental changes such as deforestation and wetlands drainage modifying albedo and precipitation (Charney et al., 1977). Such impacts lead to decreased agricultural production, among other consequences. In South Sudan there is a very rampant and aggressive dealing with the environment. There is also evidence of South Sudanese accelerating deforestation due to wood being collected for fuel, charcoal production, livestock, agriculture, bricks burning, and collection of construction materials (Environmental Impacts, Risks and Opportunities Assessment Report, 2012). Considering this is very necessary as some real evidence suggests for example, in the 1970s, experiments in the Negev desert in Israel showed that reduction of vegetation due to grazing and fire leads to higher reflection of solar radiation (albedo) which results in decreasing rainfall. Protection of a large area over a longer period resulted in increased rainfall.

Just taking the case of pastoralist groups in South Sudan it can be possible to design some policies that could help them in terms of providing alternative means of livelihoods that will contribute to best practice. One thing that can be considered is how their grazing systems can be made less harmful to the environment and also some process of changing the mind-set of pastoralists to adapt measure that makes livestock become an economic asset hence reduce the level of environmental destruction by livestock. Livestock movements and destruction to the environment has induced a number of human insecurity and conflict. Conflicts between pastoralists and farmers are also becoming more common during the dry season when, in the absence of grasslands, cattle are taken to graze on planted fields.

As a matter of fact, it is important to highlight that a changing climate impacts the South Sudanese health and their wellbeing. Notably, as the situation in the Jonglei and Upper Nile states demonstrated with significant number of flooding’s. A report from the United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (2013) as cited by the Voice of America indicates that more than “223,474 people in eight of South Sudan’s 10 states have been impacted by floods caused by heavy rains. More than 63,000 of those affected were in Jonglei state” (Voice of America. 2013). Climate change makes many existing diseases and conditions worse. As experienced in many parts of South Sudan the impact of climate change is most on vulnerable people like children, the elderly, the poor, and those with underlying health conditions. Their human security and safety decrease and there will be an increased risk for health effects from climate change (Climate Change and Human Health. 2015).

As South Sudan looks at various ways of addressing this challenge it will be beneficial if steps are taken to lessen climate change via “mitigation” and reduce its impacts on the South Sudan health and the health of South Sudanese future generations and how they will adapt to such impact. Without delay, if the government and international institutions can be able to provide research on human health impacts related to climate change and adaptation and also raise awareness and create new partnerships to advance key areas of health research and knowledge development on human health effects of climate change the yielded benefits from these steps can likely contribute to health environment. South Sudan should consider improvement of its adaptive capacity and building its resilience to disaster and climate stress. This can also be backed up by ensuring good governance.

To put it another way, climate change negative impacts reduce the availability of water. Once the amount of water is reduced the population will suffer as they will have poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene that results in tremendous human and economic costs and further rein gender balance and other societal inequalities. It can be said that as far as human security is concerned women and girls in South Sudan will be more impacted as they will travel long distances to access water also contribute to a rise in mortality and malnutrition rates. As reported by Relief web in 2012 one region of South Sudan- Lake state has had severe water crisis. It was reported that water levels from over 1,486 boreholes dropped. Pumping the water from these boreholes by force led to damaging them. Such many community-managed water supply systems have fallen into disrepair for technical, financial and managerial reasons (Relief web, 2012). The community suffers for long without adapting to such a negative climate change impact which threatens the survival of the local population. Addressing such situation may require the concept of community-based resource use management established in a number of communities. A successful adaption concept can be learned from Bahr el Ghazal with its concept of integrated river basin management applied in pilot catchment areas.

It can be mention without doubt that; the consequences of climate change will affect millions of people in South Sudan. This can compromise human security in terms of individual freedom from threats such as flooding or food shortages, and possibly even impacting beyond the border of South Sudan and international security. In the same fashion the treat of climate change may pose a threat to stability. Above all, climate change in South Sudan will severely challenge the country’s ability to achieve economic growth needed to sustain achieved reductions in poverty.

As the case is for South Sudan with its weak governance structures and stricken by political violence and poverty, there is high likeness that the government may not have the capacity to respond and monitor natural hazards as they may occur in the future (Natural Resource Governance, 2013). On the positive side this paper proposes that, opportunity to develop new and effective governmental structures and systems to contribute in developing policies that address climate change issues can be a right thing to do. To demonstrate, governance institution and the states play a crucial role in environmental governance and issues to do with proposing adaption strategy on climate change as they have the political authority remains vested in it (Cable, V. 1999).

Recommendations and Conclusion

Surely climate change can be said as a new global phenomenon with the high capacity to fundamentally reshape or even to some extend destroy life on this universe. By not proposing practical and workable policy and adaptation strategies to address the current patterns and mitigate it adequately a serious consequence on human security and human well-being.

As can be noticed, a major challenge for the Government of South Sudan right now and in the near future is how to keep the focus on working towards a better and sustainable future for the South Sudan and its citizens adapting to major risk such as climate change.

In line with all the above this paper considers proposing the policy adaptive strategies; putting in place adaptation strategies to climate change could contribute to sustainable development.

First fundamental issue to consider is that there is need for the local, states, and national governments to be supported to develop their own capacities. By supporting building capacities of these governments including their mandated institutions their response to sustainable environmental governance to deal with climate change adaptation and mitigation will be adequate. One assertion that can be made here is that once such institutions of governance are strengthened they may become responsive to future climate related issues including conflict mitigation.

It will also be necessary for the national government and law makers in South Sudan to work with all levels of governments to put in place and promote environmental management policy and legislation. Among key things the government should consider putting in place Community Based Natural Resource Management units in all levels of governments. Putting in place such management unit will not be simple but resources both human and financial will be required to make it fully operational.

Community Based Natural Resource Management as a concept is today becoming widely applied globally, but it can be a good concept for South Sudan to apply. It must be said that this concept is effective to facilitate the involvement of local communities in the management of restricted use areas, such as protected areas, forest reserves, buffer zones and corridors.

South Sudan through its relevant institutions should provide research on human health impacts related to climate change and adaptation. The data obtained from this research should be made public for public consumption. International partners should consider giving expertise and financial support to make such research on human health impacts possible.

Information collected from research can also be used for raising awareness to the South Sudanese population. The relevant institutions at various levels in South Sudan need to create new partnerships mechanisms to advance key areas of health research and knowledge development on human health effects of climate change.

Putting focus on improving community sanitation and medical services, including capacities for diagnosis and treatment and building of community awareness regarding preventative measures can be a good adaptation strategy.

South Sudan should also focus on poverty reduction through strategies that advance afforestation, agricultural best practice and water resources development. It is highly advisable that regulating the felling of trees and also enforcing the use of hardy, drought-resistant deep-rooting tree seedlings capable of tapping any groundwater resources that may be available can be best adaptive measures.

Given the situation about water scarcity as a major problem there is need to put in mechanism to improve access to groundwater supplies by humans and animals through installation of water pumps can be a sustainable way of ensuring water availability throughout the year.

This paper finally maintained that, climate change undermines human security in the present day, and will increasingly do so in the future. It does this by reducing people’s access to natural resources that are important to sustain their livelihoods. Climate change is also likely to undermine the capacity of states to provide the opportunities and services that help people to sustain their livelihoods, and which help to maintain and build peace. In certain circumstances, these direct and indirect impacts of climate change on human security and the state may in turn increase the risk of violent conflict.

South Sudan has been struggling with many major issues. Coupled with years of violent conflict, lack of national infrastructure, corrupt governance, and a high disease burden, rainfall levels have continued to decline. The latter has only exacerbated the problems associated with the prior. And those problems initially listed have left South Sudan unable to deal with the fact that they are an agrarian nation, reliant on precipitation.

South Sudan has a number of options at least when it comes to the improvement of its adaptive capacity and building its resilience to disaster and climate stress. One thing South Sudan needs to do is to work on all the aspects of good governance and build its capacity to deal with climate change risks.


African Economic Outlook Report, (2015). South Sudan 2015 Retrievedfrom:http://www.africaneconomicoutlook.org/fileadmin/uploads/aeo/2015/CN_data/CN_Long_EN/South_Sudan_GB_2015.pdf accessed 17 October 2015

Barnett and Neil, (2007). Climate change, human security and violent conflict political Geography 26 (2007) 639e655

Cable, V. (1999), Globalization and global governance, Chatham House Papers, London

Charney, J., Quirk W.J., Chow, S.-H., & Kornfield, J. (1977). A comparative study of the effects of albedo change on drought in semi-arid areas. Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, Vol. 34, 1366-1385.

Climate Change and Human Health. (2015). http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/programs/geh/climatechange/ retrieved 11 October 2015.

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Marisa O, (2013). Youth, Climate Change, and Peace in South Sudan, Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice, 25:4, 526-533, DOI: 10.1080/10402659.2013.846170

Natural Resource Governance Report, (2013). Institute South Sudan’s Performance on the Resource Governance Index. Retrieved from http://www.resourcegovernance.org/countries/africa/south-sudan/overview

Relief Web, (2012). Severe water crisis looms in Lakes State http://reliefweb.int/report/south-sudan-republic/severe-water-crisis-looms-lakes-state

United Nations world population prospects, (2015).revision Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Publications/Files/Key_Findings_WPP_2015.pdf. Retrieved 12 October 2015.

Voice of America. (2013). Jonglei Hardest Hit by South Sudan Floods. http://www.voanews.com/content/south-sudan-flooding-infrastructure-jonglei-unity/1786820.html. Retrieved 14 October 2015.

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