Policy makers must support farmer adaptation to climate change, report says

Africa must mainstream climate-smart agriculture into its farming practices to mitigate the effects of climate change, likely to hit Africa hard, a report by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) said this week.

Contributing the least to climate change, Africa is nevertheless expected to be the continent worst affected by climate change. This year’s Africa Progress Report noted that a 2˚C warming could reduce total crop production by 10 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2050, and increase the undernourished population by at least 25 percent.

“Between 1886 and 2012, global average temperatures have risen by 0.85˚C and this is reflected across all regions of (Sub-Saharan Africa),” the report, the Africa Agriculture Status Report 2014, said. “Consensus projects have all regions becoming wetter, except for southern Africa, where a robust drying trend is anticipated.”

Increased frequency and severity of extreme climatic events are very likely, it added, referring to severe storms, flooding, and droughts.

Climate-smart agricultural techniques include the efficient use of water and nutrients, use of diverse varieties and breeds, integrated pest management, integrated crop, livestock and agroforestry systems, and improved grassland management, the report, which was launched at the African Green Revolution Forum in Addis Ababa, said.

“If (Sub-Saharan Africa) is to meet the challenge of feeding an additional 1.6 billion people by 2050, an integrated approach to addressing all challenges that have negative impacts in the agricultural environment is essential,” it added.

Climate change combines with declining soil fertility, reduced farm size, and rural to urban migration to place extra pressure on African agriculture, the report said.

This year’s Africa Progress Report finds that Africa could easily double its productivity levels within five years, allowing it to cut its food import bills, worth US$35 billion in 2011, and earn more money for its farms and fisheries, upon which two thirds of the continent’s population depend.

In line with this year’s Africa Progress Report, the Africa Agriculture Status Report recommends that governments:

– fulfil their investment commitments under the 2003 Maputo Declaration;
– create policy and regulatory environments that encourage private sector investment;
– accelerate policies that ensure not just an adequate supply of calories, but also access to more nutritious crops and diversified diets.

“Policy makers have an absolutely critical role to play in encouraging adaptation actions,” the AGRA report said.

Photo credit: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center

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