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

Could rising temperatures overwhelm Africa’s adaptive capacity and resilience?

‘A new study warns of the potential problems Africa faces from rising temperatures.

‘The Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) says the continent must learn to adapt to shorter growing seasons. The report was released as the U.N. Climate Change Conference is held in Cancun, Mexico.

‘Most warnings about climate change are based on a possible rise in global temperatures by two degrees Celsius. But this report considers what might happen if temperatures increased by four degrees. . . . [ILRI director general Carlos] Seré says computer models indicate such an increase is possible by the year 2090.

‘“The main concern is really the fate of Africans. . . . We estimate at least 60 percent of the total employment is in the rural areas and it’s largely in mixed systems—crop-livestock systems where people have small acreages, grow some cereals, some roots and tubers and keep some animals,” he says. . . .

‘Scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute say with a four degree Celsius rise in temperature, the growing season in many African countries could dramatically shorten. ‘“So that would really put large numbers of poor people into a very difficult situation in terms of coping with this change,” he says. Adapting to climate change could mean having diversity in crops and livestock.

‘Seré says, “Clearly, farmers would have to change some of their crops. So, for example, areas which are getting a reasonable maize harvest, a corn harvest, nowadays, might have to move into more drought tolerant grains like sorghum or millet. Similarly, on the livestock side there would have to probably be quite a shift to more hardy local breeds instead of high yielding imported breeds, which are much less able to cope with higher temperatures and more variability.” The genetic resources of hardy local crops and livestock could be used to help develop new varieties and breeds better able to deal with climate change. Seré says the report calls for “sustainable intensification. . . . “We will have to get all these nutrient loops much more efficient than they are today,” he says. . . .

‘The Institute says, “While many options are already available that could help farmers adapt . . . it is quite possible that the adaptive capacity and resilience of hundreds of millions of people in Africa could simply be overwhelmed by events.”

‘The new study appears in the British journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Series A. . . .’

Read the whole article at Voice of America: Climate Change: New report outlines how Africa can adapt, 29 November 2010.

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