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Climate change: Potential impacts on crops and livestock in Africa

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Good Morning Friends,

How are you? With my first coffee of the morning was thinking about climate change in Africa and the effects they might have.

The impacts of climate change will not be evenly spread across Africa. Farms in some agro-ecological zones will benefit, while those in others will lose.

Farmers will be able to tolerate or perhaps take advantage of-mild or moderate climate change through various adaptation measures including switching among crops and livestock species, or between crops and livestock. Under certain climatic conditions, livestock species may provide more flexibility to some farmers and could help offset losses in crop income.

The key question is whether farmers have access to the best means of adapting to climate change in their local context,” said Ariel Dinar, Lead Economist in the World Bank’s Development Research Group.In helping farmers adapt, policymakers should address the most vulnerable zones within a country first, taking into account their population, income volatility, and the size of the impact.
Africa’s future distribution of crops

Africa’s future distribution of crops will differ depending on the type of climate change scenario that occurs:

  • In a very hot, dry scenario, farmers will grow more fruit and vegetables across traditionally humid parts of Africa, but less of these in lowland semi-arid areas.
  • In a mild and moist scenario, farmers will grow more millet, except in the lowland dry savannah and lowland semi-arid zones.
  • In all scenarios, maize will be chosen less often in all zones.
  • Wheat will decline across Africa as climate warms.

Given that these simulations are based on the types of decisions farmers are already making, this is potentially very useful information for policymakers. It could help them to plan for the infrastructure, institutions and funds that may be needed in the future.

How climate change can affect livestock decisions

Farmers adapt their decisions about livestock based on the climate. As temperature warms, farmers will raise more livestock and switch species. However, if rainfall increases, they will own less livestock.

Research findings show that

  • As temperature rises, African farmers tend to move away from chickens and beef and dairy cattle towards goats and sheep.
  • As rainfall increases, they tend to move away from beef and dairy cattle and sheep towards goats and chickens.
  • With climate change, livestock ownership will increase across Africa, except in the deserts.
  • In a very hot and dry scenario, the largest increase in livestock adoption will happen in the high elevation zones.

Species choice varies across the different agro-ecological zones. For example, in a mild and moist scenario, sheep ownership decreases in deserts, at high elevation, and in lowland humid regions, but increases in West Africa and mid-elevation areas in southern Africa.

Besides taking into account these varying adaptation choices by zone, policymakers will also need to consider changes in global prices for livestock and local changes in population, income and level of development,” said Robert Mendelsohn of the School of Forestry and Environment Studies at Yale University. 

Best regards,


Written by forachance

15 October 2008 at 8:14