Situated in the Horn of Africa, the Republic of Djibouti is located on the Gulf of Aden at the southern entrance of the Red Sea and shares borders with Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. The country’s terrain is craggy, comprised of plateaus, plains, volcanic formations and mountain ranges reaching 2,000 meters in height (MHUEAT, 2001). Djibouti has very little arable soil; 89 per cent of the country is desert, 10 per cent is pasture, and 1 per cent is forested (USDS, 2010). As a result of little precipitation and lands unsuitable for agriculture, Djibouti imports nearly all of its food (CIA, 2010). Djibouti is a resource scarce country, this proneness to natural disasters is exacerbated by scarce water resources management, subpar land use planning, lack of building code enforcement, and limited capacity to react to natural disasters (GFDRR, 2009). Dijbouti is prone to a number of natural hazards, including multi-annual droughts, frequent flash floods, frequent earthquakes, volcanism and fires fueled by droughts (GFDRR, 2009). Sea level rise represents a great threat to Republic of Djibouti, particularly in Djibouti town where around 70% of the population is concentrated. Climate change will have impacts on the Djibouti marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Adaptation strategies and adaptation measures proposed, which must form part of a comprehensive social and economic approach, should include:

  • Coastal protection;
  • Strengthening of rock rubble breakwaters on the marine coastline;
  • Development of the Ambouli wadi;
  • Reforestation of dunes;
  • Banking up the walls of landfills;
  • Installing a drainage system for rainwater ;
  • Implementing regulatory and institutional measures.

Deforestation for charcoal is a persistent issue in the country (USDS, 2010), and country has inadequate supplies of potable water (CIA, 2010). As identified through the creation of Djibouti's National Adaptation Programme of Action, the Priority Projects are:

  • Mitigation of climate change-related risks for the production system of coastal areas through an integrated, adapted and participatory management involving grassroots organisations
  • Promoting the fencing of forest areas in Day and Mabla coupled with the introduction of improved stoves
  • Implementation of restoration and management actions adapted to surface water
  • Improvement of rangeland management to mitigate the risks associated with traditional extensive livestock
  • Promotion of the integrated agro-pastoral industry and the development of irrigation techniques to control the salinisation of soils
  • Promoting the regeneration of pastures endogenous to the areas of Doda and Grand Bara
  • Restoration of protected sites through the protection of coral reefs and mangrove vegetation
  • Promoting protection measures adapted to the water supply infrastructures of the City of Djibouti

The study of the vulnerability and adaptation of the coastal region focuses primarily on the city of Djibouti, an extensive urban sprawl and hive of economic and social activity, which is in the throes of rapid urban development and marked population growth. Djibouti has a land area of about 23,000km2, and a population of 632,000 people growing at 6.1 per annum. More than 65% of the population lives in the capital city. The country has some of the lowest health, education and other social indicators in the world. School enrolment rates are low at 35% to 40% and illiteracy rates high at 57% for women and 42.7% for the overall population. The rate of school drop out is also high at 7.9% and 17.3% for men and women respectively.

Economic activity in the country is concentrated in urban areas; two-thirds of the country’s approximate population of 741,000 people resides in the capital city, Djibouti City, with 85 per cent of the population living in urban coastal areas. The remaining 15 per cent are nomadic herders (GFDRR, 2009; MHUEAT, 2006; USDS, 2010). Djibouti’s economy benefits from its proximity to the large Ethiopian market and its status as a free trade zone in the Horn of Africa. Major economic drivers in the country are the Port of Djibouti, the banking sector, the airport, and the operation of the railroad (CIA, 2010; USDS, 2010). The port is a significant contributor to economic activity given that nearly 60 per cent of the world’s commercial ships use Djiboutian waters, passing from the Red Sea and into the Gulf of Aden to reach the Indian Ocean (USDS, 2010). Despite improved economic conditions after the 1991-94 civil war, approximately 42.5 per cent of the country lives in extreme poverty and around 60 per cent of urban dwellers are unemployed (CIA, 2010; MHUEAT, 2006).