Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – New research has revealed that Africa will face significantly lower crop yields in the next 10 years as a result of increasing temperatures threatening the food security of millions. The new report on climate change and African agriculture, published Wednesday by the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC), the technical arm of the Climate for Development in Africa (ClimDev Africa) programme, based at the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), examined the extent of climate change impacts in Africa and their effects on food security, and found that even small temperature increases were likely to affect yields.
The report is published against the backdrop of the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, where future action to limit temperature increases is being discussed.
‘This report provides an important context for the talks in Durban,’ Dr. Seleshi Bekele, Senior Water and Climate Specialist at the ACPC, said.
‘Agriculture is the lifeline and mainstay of livelihoods for three out of four Africans, and therefore adaptation to climate change in this critical sector is not an option but a necessity,’ he added.
The report’s author, Prof. Doreen Stabinsky, said ‘Global temperature rise must be limited urgently to avoid serious impacts on African agricultural production. International offset programmes, which provide a substitute for action in developed countries, are actually further threatening food security in Africa.’
She noted that African farmers and pastoralists were already seeing changes in the timing of rains, in the severity of rains, in temperatures, and in the progressive drying of their soils.
Recent research summarised in the report concluded that from 1980-2008, due to rising global temperatures, global maize and wheat yields have already decreased by 3.8 percent and 5.5 percent respectively.
‘All of these impacts are being felt before we even see a temperature rise of 1°C,’ Stabinsky warned.
‘African countries are highly vulnerable to climate change, and the agriculture sector is a good indicator of vulnerability given its importance to livelihoods and the economy,” said Seyni Nafo, spokesperson of the African Group.
“The impact that current and historic GHG emission is having on agriculture in Africa needs to be better understood in order for African negotiators to negotiate effectively, armed with the kind of information outlined in this report,’ Nafo emphasized.
At the current rate of temperature increase, global average temperatures will have increased 1.5°C by 2050.
Studies quoted in the report estimate average production losses by 2050 for African maize at 22 percent, sorghum 17 percent, millet 17 percent, groundnut 18 percent, and cassava 8 percent.
‘Warming as low as 1.5˚C threatens food production in Africa significantly.’ added Stabinsky.
The research also shows that warming over 1.5°C will mean severe crop loss, displacement of pastoralists and agricultural production, and dangerous impacts on food security for millions of people.
African governments should demand a work programme on agriculture under the Adaptation Framework, as recommended by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, both to ensure food security and address slow onset temperature rise and the yield declines that will follow, Stabinsky pointed out.
The report covers many of the current and projected climate impacts in Africa, including: Impacts of extreme temperatures and slow onset temperature rise on crop yields; Global warming contributions to the Sahel and Horn of Africa droughts; Impacts on tea and cocoa production in Africa from changing climates; and Risk of continued emissions from Annex I countries for African agriculture.
The African Group is the group of 54 African countries represented in the UN climate change negotiations. It is chaired by Tosi Mpanu Mpanu of the DR Congo.
ACPC is a joint initiative of the African Union Commission (AUC), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB). It is based in the ECA in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.