As agricultural economists, we carried out a review of the literature on the climate change challenge for agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. We explored the distribution of various climatic factors (like rainfall, temperature and extreme weather events) across the region and their impact on agriculture. We also investigated what rural farmers were doing to respond to climate change.
We found that the implications of climate change for agricultural and economic development are diverse across the region. It is difficult to predict exactly how climate change will affect agriculture and economic development.
Farmers are not using effective adaptation strategies. These include planting drought-tolerant crop varieties and conserving water and soil. Limited resources and infrastructure have held them back. Mitigation programmes such as carbon pricing, water management, recycling, afforestation and reforestation have had limited impact. Poor climate change awareness, unstable government policies and political instability have hindered the programmes.
The impact of climate change on vulnerable households will be extreme if adequate measures are not taken in time. Research suggests that countries such as Togo, Nigeria, Congo and Mali will record more agricultural losses without adaptation. Governments, international organisations, local communities and other stakeholders need to develop strategies to address the diverse needs of rural farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.
The studies we reviewed indicated that patterns of rainfall, temperature and extreme weather events have changed significantly in the region. This trend is not expected to change in future decades.
Sub-Saharan Africa experiences diverse rainfall patterns. Annual rainfall can be as low as 100 millimetres in arid areas in the Sahel and parts of East Africa and over 500 millimetres in tropical areas in central and western Africa.
Temperatures can often exceed 40°C (104°F) during the hottest months. Over the last century, the mean temperature has increased by about 0.74°C.
Many studies show that these conditions affect agricultural production and society in a number of ways:
The review of studies showed that sub-Saharan Africa could develop economically if rural farmers took more effective measures against climate change.
We made the following recommendations to protect farmers from the impact of climate change:
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