Africa / Agriculture / CCAFS / Climate Change / Food Security / Kenya / Opinion piece

‘Adapt to climate shifts now’ – New research report advice to Africa’s farmers and policymakers

NP Ghana 64 copy

A failed maize crop in Ghana. A report by CCAFS is advising Africa’s farmers and policymakers to adapt to climate shifts now to ensure communities are protected from climate change devastations (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

The many adverse impacts of climate change on agriculture—from increasing droughts and floods, to more unpredictable and extreme weather patterns, to shorter growing seasons—threaten the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers in Africa today.

For many African countries, dealing with climate change, which has shifted from the realm of academic discussion to that of high-profile policymaking, is now driving greater engagement in the global climate change debate.

That’s a good sign. An article this week (17 Jun 2013) in Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper reports that African countries are now arguing that climate change agreements, such as those under discussion in Bonn last week, should include ways of protecting and boosting agriculture. That’s to secure agriculture’s ‘role in providing food security and improved livelihoods for millions of small-holder farmers’.

That’s important. The economies of African countries  depend largely on rain-fed agriculture. These countries face ‘increased exposure to climate-related risks, not only in the arid and semi-arid regions, but also in the grain basket regions, where some of the negative impacts could manifest themselves through crop and livestock pests and disease’.

The article’s authors include James Kinyangi, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), who leads the East Africa program of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Kinyangi and his fellow author laud ‘Kenya’s recent move to launch a national climate change action plan’, which sets out ‘a policy roadmap for reducing the country’s vulnerability to climate change’. Kenya’s plan, they say, is an example of the actions African nations can take to protect themselves against climate change devastations.

Those climate-related devastations appear real enough already. In Kenya, for example, ‘recent droughts have left up to 3.7 million people without access to food and vulnerable to hunger. . . . [B]etween 2008 and 2011, drought alone slowed the country’s economic growth by an average 2.8 per cent per year’. The country’s environment ministry warns that the impact of climate change by 2030 could be as high as 2.6 per cent of Kenya’s gross domestic product each year.

‘Among the ways forward in addressing climate change impact in Africa’, the article says, ‘is improving African countries’ low capacity to adapt to the negative impacts arising from climate variability and climate change’.

The article emphasizes adaptation to climate change on the continent, which can help ‘Africa to move towards regional and national level strategies that make it possible for societies to live with climate change’.

A recent CCAFS report, ‘Addressing uncertainty in adaptation planning for agriculture’, agrees that smallholder farmers in Africa and elsewhere can benefit from adapting to climate shifts. Countries can avoid much of the food insecurity and suffering associated with climate change, the report’s authors argue, through long-term adaptation strategies, including planning for wholesale changes in livelihoods, diets and farming practices.

‘At a more practical level’, the authors say, ‘it means rural subsistence farmers taking up or adapting simple innovations and technologies to increase agricultural productivity and conserve watersheds.’

Read the whole article in the Daily Nation: Why climate change has become a big threat to vulnerable African countries, 17 Jun 2013.

Read a related ILRI news article on recommendations from this new CCAFS research report.

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