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CLIMATE CHANGE AND AGRICULTURE IN AFRICA

Today, climate change is a global phenomenon that attracts much attention across the world. It has become the most global environmental challenge undermining the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and international communities’ effort to reduce extreme poverty. As a result, it was adopted among the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. Climate change projections suggest there would be an increase in extreme heat, severe drought, and an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events affecting food production, water-borne diseases, food trade, and distribution.

Africa is considered the most vulnerable region in the world to adverse effects of climate change because of reliance on rain-fed agriculture and limited technological capacity to cope with adverse effects of climate change. Africa is dependent on agricultural production which is highly dependent on precipitation and accounts for approximately 60% of total employment, indicating its crucial role in livelihoods and food security in Africa.

Drying maize plants as a result of indequate rains

Africa’s poor agricultural incentives and infrastructure, inadequate trade and pricing policies, and weak capacity signify low investment in the agricultural sector despite a huge chunk of the population is directly dependent on agriculture and natural resources. With farming done mainly under rain-fed conditions, increasing land degradation, and low levels of irrigation, climate change can significantly reverse the progress towards poverty reduction and food security in Africa.

According to Food Agricultural Organization, the population in Sub- Saharan Africa could double by 2050, increasing agricultural consumption by 2.8% annually until 2030, and by 2.0% annually from 2030 to 2050. It is observed that the yields are less than one-third of the maximum attainable yields. 

A lot has been put in place by Africa governments and donor communities to reverse the adverse effects of climate change although more still needs to be done. Mitigation and adaptation measures have been adopted such as crop diversification, the adaptation of rainwater management through farm dams, conservation agriculture, diversification of livelihoods, community capacity building, promotion of improved crop varieties among others.

However, neglect by some governments and donor communities has led to a shortage of the resources and technical skills needed to adequately support agricultural development. Many agricultural banks and rural financial services have declined, extension services, applied research, and investment in infrastructural projects have also declined.

Therefore, climate change adaptations that aim to mitigate and develop appropriate coping measures to address the negative impacts of climate change on agriculture should be adequately promoted. Effective adaptation strategies and actions should aim to secure wellbeing in the face of climate variability. It should focus on support for decision-making and capacity-building process that shape social learning, technology transfer, innovation, and development pathways. Adaption is most relevant when it influences decisions that exist irrespective of climate change, but which have long-term consequences.

Still, the potential for productivity enhancement is therefore large, particularly for maize, sorghum, and millet although water is often the principal constraint for agricultural productivity, optimal access to complementary inputs and investment in research development are also paramount. 

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