African farmers urgently need “climate-smart” investment – report

Climate change will mean more failed harvests, without investment in new seed varieties and farming techniques

Climate change increases the risk of drought for African farmers (Pic: Australian Department of Foreign Affairs/Flickr)

Climate change increases the risk of drought for African farmers
(Pic: Australian Department of Foreign Affairs/Flickr)

By Megan Darby

Smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa urgently need money for “climate-smart” agriculture, say experts.

Farmers on the continent are already struggling to adapt to rising temperatures and erratic rains, according to the 2014 African Agriculture Status Report.

Climate change will increase the risk of crop failures, warned the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), launching the report at the African Green Revolution Forum in Addis Ababa.

“Smallholder farmers are the mainstay of food production across sub-Saharan Africa,” said Jane Karuku, president of AGRA.

“As climate change turns up the heat, the continent’s food security and its ability to generate economic growth that benefits poor Africans—most of whom are farmers—depends on our ability to adapt to more stressful conditions.”

Temperatures in sub-Saharan Africa are expected to rise between 1.5C and 2.5C by 2050, bringing increased risk of both drought and flooding.

Growing seasons and rainfall patterns will change, the report found, hitting staple food crops. Yields of beans in eastern and central Africa, for example, could decline 25-80%.

Parts of Angola have become impossible to farm as the country suffers its third consecutive year of drought. And an estimated 7.5 million hungry people in the Sahel are going from crisis to crisis, in a situation the UN said was worsening with climate change.

Without action, the report says malnutrition will rise 40% in the next 35 years, to affect 355 million people.

Changing climate conditions can also reduce the concentration of nutrients such as iron and zinc in crops. That heightens the risk of micronutrient deficiency and health problems.

Solutions to the problem include better soil and water management, new crop varieties and machines to increase productivity.

AGRA claims projects to make soil more fertile in Tanzania, Ghana and Malawi repaid each dollar of investment between five and 17 times over, by increasing yield of maize, soybean and pigeon pea crops.

“Helping smallholders adapt to climate challenges today will prepare them for even more serious challenges in the future,” said David Sarfo Ameyaw, managing editor of the report and AGRA’s director for strategy monitoring and evaluation.

“When farmers are able to employ climate-smart techniques, it makes a huge difference. Despite climate change, there is enormous potential for smallholder-led agricultural growth.

“But there is an urgent need to increase investments to expand climate-smart agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa.”

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