Sunday, November 15, 2009

Climate Change and Agriculture in East Africa

In the context of the earlier post discussing expected changes in global agricultural productivity by 2050 (in which the southern hemisphere suffers hugely), it is reassuring to see the recent article "Adapting to climate change: Agricultural system and household impacts in East Africa" in the journal Agricultural Systems.

While East Africa is likely to be one of the least affected regions on the continent, the article notes:
Yields of staples like maize and beans will double in the region's highland areas as a result of rising temperatures, as warmer climates make crops mature faster.

But the reverse is likely to occur in both drier and more humid areas, with crop harvests decreasing significantly in these places.

In the worst-affected areas, the researchers recommend farmers keep more livestock, switch to more drought-hardy crops such as sorghum, or abandon crop cultivation altogether. New sources of income might include carbon sequestration, they say.

In areas where the effects of climate change are likely to be less severe and crop losses more moderate, the authors call for the adoption of new technologies and agricultural techniques — such as water harvesting — that will enable farmers to continue growing crops.

While it is somewhat comforting to know that mitigation techniques are plausibly successful in such the region, there remains the pressing issue of providing the resources necessary to make such adaptation possible.

1 comment:

  1. It's a little troubling when "carbon sequestration" becomes a source of income, a sort of "cash crop," instead of planting edible food. And that only works if cap-and-trade is implemented. But the real tragedy is that local people won't be able to grow enough food for themselves. They will remain entirely dependent on a global food distribution system, which, with peak oil, is likely to get more costly, and thus more scarce.