Agriculture / CCAFS / Climate Change / Food Security / ILRI / Report

‘Lifeline’ food crops at risk of climate change: Major adaptation efforts needed, says CGIAR study

Rose Mnjemo

Rose Mnjemo with soya beans, a maize, soya and cassava farmer from Khulungira Village, in central Malawi (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Agence France Presse reports on a 2012 international study that found that climate change is on track to disrupt lifeline food crops across large swathes of Africa and Asia already mired in chronic poverty.

More than 350 million people face a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions for potential food disaster, warns the report by scientists in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Temperature increases projected by UN climate scientists could, by 2050, shorten growing seasons below critical thresholds, worsen weather variability, and render many regions dominated by subsistence farming unsuitable for key crops. If these areas have a history of persistent food shortages to begin with, the mix could be lethal.”

Co-author of this report is Philip Thornton, an agricultural systems analyst and climate change specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Thornton also is a theme leader in the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

‘”We are starting to see much more clearly where the effect of climate change on agriculture could intensify hunger and poverty,” said Patti Kristjanson, a scientist at CGIAR’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

‘Farmers know from experience how to cope with fickle weather patterns by changing planting schedules and moving livestock.

‘But rapid and major climate shifts may force them to use “entirely new crops or new farming systems,” and many may not be able to adapt, Kristjanson said.

‘The 100-page study identifies potential food crisis “hotspots” by overlaying three kinds of data onto global and regional maps. . . .

When you put these maps together, they reveal places around the world where the arrival of stressful growing conditions could be especially disastrous,” said Polly Ericksen, a scientist at CGIAR’s International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi. . . . [I]n much of Africa and Asia, where farmers are already struggling to meet basic needs, survival is strongly linked to the fate of regional crop and livestock yields,’ Ericksen said. . . .”

‘”The window of opportunity to develop innovative solutions that can effectively overcome these challenges is limited,” said Philip Thornton, a scientist at CCAFS and co-author of the study.

‘”Major adaptation efforts are needed now if we are to avoid serious food security and livelihood problems later.”‘

Read the whole article at Agence France Presse: Tropical ‘hotspots’ may get too warm to farm, 3 June 2011.

Read other news articles reporting on the same study in Time Magazine, and BBC and the Guardian.


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