Africa’s food crops are currently in danger. Climate change is challenging food security in many parts of the world including Africa and if timed transformation in the continent isn’t carried out, there could be an impact on the food production in the region. African crops are facing due to climate change, with maize, beans and bananas facing the highest risk.
The findings are the result of a study carried out by University of Leeds researchers who have suggested that the key to tackling climate change-induced food insecurity in Africa is through transformation in the food producing regions of the continent. These transformations have to be carried out in a timed manner – some even as early as 2025 – otherwise things could go bad for the regions that are most vulnerable.
But governments will still need to re-assess agricultural and food security policies to see whether bigger transformations are needed, such as switching to different crops or livestock.
If so, they will need to help farmers access markets or build processing and storage facilities for new crops.
CCAFS researcher Andy Jarvis, a co-author of the paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change, noted adjusting national policies can take decades.
For the study, researchers have defined transformation as something that involves changing the crop grown in a particular area, or improving irrigation systems, or, in extreme circumstances, moving away from agriculture altogether.
Agricultural activities are considered to be one of the main drivers to reduce poverty and improve food security among the planet’s undernourished population, which is estimated to be 800-850 million people.
Further scientists have also envisioned three overlapping adaptation phases to enable projected transformational changes: an incremental adaptation phase focused on improvements to crops and management, a preparatory phase that establishes appropriate policies and enabling environments, and a transformational adaptation phase in which farmers substitute crops, explore alternative livelihoods strategies, or relocate.
Researchers found that of the nine, six are expected to remain stable under moderate and extreme climate change scenarios, up to 30 per cent of areas growing maize and bananas, and up to 60 per cent of those producing beans are projected to become unviable by the end of the century. In some areas transformations will need to take place as soon as 2025.
Given that 60 percent of women in sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania and Southeast Asia are engaged in agriculture
In a few places, the need to adapt to climate change is already urgent, the researchers said. Those include pockets in highly climate-exposed areas of the Sahel in Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Niger.
Banana-growing regions of West Africa, including areas in Ghana and Benin, will need to act within the next decade, as the land is expected to become unsuitable for bananas by 2025.
And maize-growing areas of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Tanzania also have less than 10 years left to change tack under the most extreme climate change scenarios, the study added.
Authors note that conditions now call for flexible agriculture and their study predicts that within the next decade many maize- and banana-growing areas of sub-Saharan Africa will not be suitable for those crops.
Given that solutions such as breeding improved crops can take a minimum of 15 years to complete, the authors stress the need for immediate action.
Authors acknowledge that it could take decades to adjust national agricultural development and food security policies and for that reason the time for transformation of agriculture is running out. Governments in each of the countries in Africa will be required to up their efforts and work on the technologies and policies that can successfully help farmers to adapt to climate change in these countries.
The study examines region-by-region the likely effect of different climate change scenarios on nine crops that constitute 50% of food production in sub-Saharan Africa.
parts of Central America are becoming less suitable for growing coffee due to increased temperatures and a higher incidence of pests and diseases, so farmers are switching to cocoa instead.
During the drought of 2005 and 2006 in Kenya, the widespread response from pastoralists was to switch from cattle to camels, which need less water than other livestock, eat a diet of arid shrubs, and generate six times more milk than indigenous cattle. Poor markets for camel products, especially hides, are a problem. But Kenya’s government is increasingly supporting the new camel keepers with restocking programmes, extension services, veterinary care and infrastructure.
The images coming out of southern Africa today are alarming, and they should serve as a warning: there is still time to adapt tomorrow’s agriculture for a warmer world, but only if we start now.
While six of the nine crops studied are expected to remain stable under moderate and extreme climate change scenarios, up to 30% of areas growing maize and bananas, and up to 60% of those producing beans are projected to become unviable by the end of the century. In some areas transformations will need to take place as soon as 2025.