The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has warned of an impending threat to food security in Nigeria and 10 other nations in the West African region. According to the institute, crisis would only be averted if deliberate efforts are made by both governments and the private sector to include climate change adaptation to food security investment in the region.
The IFPRI survey that led to this caution used sophisticated modeling and available data to develop future scenarios exploring the range of climate change consequences for agriculture, food security, and resource management and offered recommendations to West African national governments and regional agencies. It offered, for the first time, country-by-country climate data and analysis for 11 of the countries that make up West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.
According to the IFPRI, West African policy makers must prepare for future challenges from climate change as they address the pressing needs of broad-based economic growth.
"Maize, millet, rice, and sorghum are the major cereal crops in the region, yet yields from these crops are very low compared to the world average and even other regions in Africa. Impacts from a changing climate will challenge production systems already under pressure to produce more to feed a growing population. Existing farming systems, including crops and livestock, are adapted to today's agro-ecosystems in the region, but climate change will alter those systems in uncertain ways, affecting livelihoods, especially those of poor farmers," the IFPRI survey noted.
According to the international food agency, this survey is greatly needed in the West Africa region to fill a major gap in the availability of up-to-date scientific information on the vulnerability of the agriculture sector to climate change in countries and in the region,
The survey was carried out in collaboration with other international food agencies including the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF /WECARD), a regional agricultural research and development organisation, and scientists from each of the countries.
"The study focused on both individual countries and the region providing a clear framework for developing informed and coherent national and regional policies to help the vulnerable farming community of West Africa become more resilient to the growing challenges of climate change.
In addition to country-level analysis and recommendations, the study offers region-wide policy suggestions including:
"Current data collection efforts on weather, land use, and water resources in the region are inadequate to make policy decisions. In particular, improved data on weather are crucial to help farmers make decisions now, and to inform long-term policies. "Policymakers should incorporate climate change considerations into food security policies - such as those related to crop research, infrastructure, and social services0 - to prepare for a changing climate while meeting the need for increased quantity and quality of food available to consumers.
"Agricultural research and extension agencies should combine efforts at improving yields with those to develop climate-resilient crop varieties. Training farmers about new techniques and technologies to both adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change is needed. Also, governments should enable farmers to access vital inputs required for improved productivity and production", the Institute added.
IFPRI then stressed that climate change considerations should be part of all aspects of national and regional planning and decision making.
"For example, new roads are essential to raise agricultural productivity. When building them, there must be plan for higher temperatures and more variable rainfall tomorrow. In some places, expanding irrigation makes a lot of sense for productivity and resilience.
When building the infrastructure, plan for more extreme rainfall events and longer droughts than are now typical. These are just a few examples of how improved planning today can increase productivity, enhance resilience in the face of climate change, and raise the incomes of poor farmers in West Africa," the agency noted.