Adapting African agriculture to climate change

Climate change is already placing enormous stress on food production systems in Africa. And worse is coming,  according to predictions.

As Agriculture Ministers from across the continent gather for the Africa Food Security Leadership Dialog in Kigali  (August 5-6, 2019), ensuring a safe and sustainable food supply must be at the core of their minds

Over the previous 20 years, the agricultural industry in sub- Saharan Africa has risen quicker than anywhere else in the globe, with an average growth rate of 4.6 percent of agricultural GDP from 2000 to 2018 – 1.4 percentage points greater than any other area.

Thanks to improvements in infrastructure such as highways and telecommunications and an increase in farm sizes,  farmers are becoming better linked to markets to sell their plants and animals at better rates and to receive inputs and services such as seeds and insurance.

But these gains in agricultural development are being eroded by shocks of manufacturing caused by climate change  that push back nations.

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Sub-Saharan Africa has witnessed four significant cuts in annual per capita food production since 2007.

All these decreases coincided with serious droughts and floods. The frequency of big weather- related manufacturing losses risen from once every 12.5 years (the average for 1982-2006) to once every 2.5 years (the average for 2007-2016).

The big fall in food manufacturing during 2015- 16 coincided with serious drought in East and Southern Africa and led to an increase in hunger incidence across Africa – from 18.2 percent in 2014 to 19.9 percent in 2018.

What can state officials, regional organizations, the private sector, and development partners do to boost climate  adaptation for African food systems? We see two significant courses of action: unleashing the authority of science and technology ; and enhancing funding.

There is an urgent need for more research and development in climate- smart plants, livestock and farming methods to boost and sustain returns. Without this, agricultural manufacturing regions will continue to expand, further degrading soils, forest watersheds and landscapes on which food production depends.

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We also need to promote increased implementation of current and proven climate-smart technologies.

Farmers are seeing enhanced food security and resilience in locations where climate-smart agriculture is practiced today. In Rwanda, for instance, the Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation project has helped  to manage erosion, intensify returns on current land and provide higher protection against droughts. Maize yields risen 2.6 times between 2009 and 2018, with even greater rises for beans, wheat and potatoes.

In Senegal, the West African Agricultural Productivity Program has created fresh high-yielding, early- maturing, drought-resistant cereal varieties such as sorghum, millet, groundnuts and cowpeas.

These varieties are commonly distributed to farmers and have increased returns by an average of 30 percent, even with less and more erratic rainfall. In 2014, despite the late start of rains and with only half of the average complete rainfall, yields of enhanced sorghum and millet varieties increased for farmers.

The second course of action is funding. We are enthusiastic about the measures that many nations are taking to  optimize their spending and produce more public goods for each dollar.

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Governments in several nations have moved from subsidizing fertilizer inputs for all farmers to targeting  smallholder farmers with electronic vouchers supplied by mobile phones.

This enables governments to concentrate on priority groups and save millions of dollars. In Nigeria, the introduction of the e- wallet program for subsidized fertilizer lowered subsidy costs from US$ 180 million to US$ 96 million between 2011 and 2013 and increased the number of farmers benefiting.

A comparable strategy could be used to promote the implementation of enhanced plants or to encourage a transition to higher-value, more water-efficient and more nutritious plants.

Investing in climate-smart, well-connected farming can assist accelerate poverty reduction across the continent.

We want to invite all policymakers, businessmen, researchers and financiers to take on the challenge of climate-adaptation of African food systems and contribute to this win – win agenda.

By pooling thoughts, technology and resources, we can address this most basic development challenge.


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