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Climate change impacts on African crops: how will they fare?

A new Working Paper by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) provides climate projections for crops in Africa.
Julian Tangermann

Outcomes and Impacts

The Working Paper ‘Climate change impacts on African crop production’ analyses 9 staple crops grown on the continent: maize, common bean, cassava, sorghum, yam, finger millet, pearl millet, groundnut, and banana, as well as the cash crop coffee. Conclusions are, even at relatively low levels of warming, i.e. keeping within the 2-degree target, agricultural productivity will most likely decline in the absence of adaptation. Tropical cereal crops such as maize and rice, usually grown in already vulnerable regions in South and Central America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, will in particular be negatively affected. Projections indicate that adaptation measures for especially maize, common beans, Arabica coffee, banana and finger millet are urgently needed in Africa to curb future negative climate impacts.

The crops common bean, maize, banana and finger millet are projected to reduce their suitable areas significantly (30-50%) across the continent, and will need some kind of adaptation plan, or be replaced with other crops. At the local level, West African countries in or near the Sahel are projected to be the most negatively impacted with 70% decreases in suitable areas for the 9 crops.

On the other hand, sorghum, cassava, yam, and pearl millet show either little area loss or even gains in suitable areas. Suitability projections suggest that opportunities may arise from expanding cropping areas in certain countries and regions: cassava production may move towards more temperate regions in Southern Africa, and yam suitability outside West Africa may increase.

In order to prepare for the globe’s glaring climatic changes, and ensure policies and programs address food security needs, policy-makers have to receive context-specific climate data and information that they can use. This working paper is one step in that direction, understanding which crops need action today in order to be successfully grown tomorrow.

Download the Working Paper for additional impacts on crops. Suitability areas and adaptation measures: Ramirez-Villegas J, Thornton PK 2015. Climate change impacts on African crop production (PDF). CCAFS Working Paper no. 119. Copenhagen, Denmark: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

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