Africa / Climate Change / Crop-Livestock / Directorate / Food Security / ILRI / Livelihoods

Climate change may force many southern African crop-and-livestock farmers to migrate–ILRI director general Carlos Sere

‘The unsolved puzzle of what to do with people forced from their homes by the effects of climate change—a hot topic a couple of years ago—seems to have slid down the agendas of aid agencies, policy makers and the media. . . . [A] comprehensive international framework for dealing with environmental migrants is still a long way off. . . .

‘Another piece of work that picks up the migration ball is a new study examining the potential impact of four-degree and above temperature increases on food production in sub-Saharan Africa, published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Series A. By the 2090s, most of southern Africa could see growing seasons shortened by at least 20 percent, according to simulations carried out using various climate models, while eastern Africa could see modestly expanded seasons. For sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, a temperature rise of five degrees would depress maize production by 24 percent and bean production by over 70 percent. And the rate of crop failure would increase in all parts of the region except Central Africa, with much of southern Africa’s rain-fed agriculture failing every other season.

‘”More frequent crop failures could unleash waves of climate migrants in a massive redistribution of hungry people,” lead author Philip Thornton of the Kenya-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) warned in a statement.

‘ILRI Director General Carlos Seré told AlertNet the researchers had not tried to work out how many poor farmers could be forced from their land by climate change, but many in southern Africa would find their current practice of cultivating crops and rearing livestock—known as “mixed farming”—no longer viable. “They will have to give up their livelihoods and migrate. In areas where there may already be conflict and other stresses, this will create an enormous amount of tension,” he said.

‘Seré hopes the paper will act as a wake-up call to government officials gathering in Cancun, Mexico, this week for the annual U.N. climate éconference. There, amid lowered expectations for progress towards a global deal, environmental migration will have to jostle for position with a host of other climate change concerns, and pushing it back up the agenda looks set to be a fairly tough challenge.’

Read the whole article at AlertNet: Policy makers still leaving climate migrants out in the cold, 29 November 2010.

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