Climate change could devastate Africa crop yields

NEWS: Draft of IPCC’s forthcoming report reveals droughts, floods, famines and health impacts from a warming world

The 2011 drought and famine in East Africa was linked to climate change by the UK's Met Office (Pic: Stuart Price/UN)

The 2011 drought and famine in East Africa was linked to climate change by the UK’s Met Office (Pic: Stuart Price/UN)

By Ed King

Africa could face an onslaught of crop failures, diseases and extreme weather events as a result of global warming, a UN panel of scientists is likely to warn later this week.

The findings will be discussed at a meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Yokohoma, Japan, before their final approval and publication on March 31.

Millions could be affected as a result of coastal and urban flooding, while fresh water resources in the west and south are expected to become under increasing stress.

The continent, which is on course to see its population double to 2.4 billion by 2050, could see its development plans impacted as food and fish stocks diminish.

Below we’re outlined some of the regional findings relating to Africa, from a draft of the report RTCC has seen this week.


– Negative effect on major cereal crops across Africa, with regional variability.

– Sub-Saharan Africa sees decreases of 19% for maize yields, 68% decrease for bean yields.

– Decreased crop yields of 18% for southern Africa to 22% across sub-Saharan Africa.

– Increasingly high vulnerability of wheat production in North Africa.

-Decreased dairy yields of 10-25% are projected in South Africa by 2050.

-Range expansion of crop pests into highland Arabica coffee-producing areas of eastern Africa.

-African horse sickness and bluetongue may expand their ranges.

-Annual landed value of fish estimated to decline by 21%, 50% decline in fisheries-related employment, total annual loss of US$ 311 million to regional economy.


-Cholera outbreaks are likely to increase in frequency and duration in coastal West African countries such as Ghana and Senegal

-Malaria is greatly impacted by temperature and precipitation and its geographic range and incidence will be affected by climate change

-Warming temperatures and rainfall may increase leishmaniasis, already an endemic disease in northern Africa (e.g., Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia).

-Prolonged droughts will likely worsen other health diseases, such as meningococcal meningitis.

-Severe child stunting (leading to higher mortality risk) could increase by 31 to 55% across sub-Saharan Africa due to climate change by 2050.

-Combination of climate change and socio-economic factors could drive the number of under-nourished children under the age of 5 to 52 million by 2050.


-African countries are experiencing some of the world’s highest urbanization rates and the urban populations in Africa are projected to triple by 2050, increasing by 0.8 billion.

-Climate-induced extreme flooding will likely impact urban areas, with areas within Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda and Ethiopia deemed vulnerable.

-Coastal flooding could impact 10,000 to 86,000 people in Kenya, with associated economic costs ranging between US$ 7 million to US$ 58 million by 2030.

-Extreme flooding could cost Mombasa US$ 0.68 billion to 1.06 billion and Dar-es-Salaam US$ 35.6 million to US$ 404.1 million in economic loses by 2030.

-Economic impacts of housing and roads due to sea-level rise in the Nile Delta would range between US$ 143 and US$ 287 million in 2030 and upwards of US$ 2.3 billion in 2060.


-Direct and indirect effects of climate change could compound existing stressors, such as deforestation, forest degradation, land-use change, and pollution.

-Climate-induced longer and more frequent droughts will continue to challenge existing water resources especially in southern and western Africa.

-All countries within the Zambezi River Basin could contend with increasing water shortages due, in part, to climate change.

-Warmer temperatures, less precipitation, and increased upstream water development for irrigation and hydropower will reduce water flow in the Nile Basin.

-Increased flows in the Mara, Nyando, and Tana rivers in Eastern Africa, which could lead to rising risks of flooding, loss of life, and increased damages.

-Climate change is expected to significantly reduce groundwater recharge in already dry locations, such as the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, and southern Africa.

-Sea-level rise is also expected to drive flooding of river deltas in Egypt, Gabon, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Tanzania, and Somalia.

-Climate change effects, such as increased ocean acidification and warming ocean temperatures will negatively affect coral reefs and fisheries, and will increase the cost of coastal protection.

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