16 March 2017

East Africa: Call for Action to Cushion East African Farmers Against Climate Change

The cycle of drought in East Africa is projected to worsen in coming years as the effects of climate change take their toll of agricultural production.

A new report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation says that unless action is taken to make agriculture more sustainable, productive and resilient, climate change will seriously compromise food production in the region. Ironically, industries in the agriculture sector are part of the problem, accounting for 21 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

East Africa, which is currently being ravaged by drought, is among regions facing the threat of climate change. And the worsening food situation is plunging more people into extreme poverty.

"The impact of climate change on agriculture and the implications for food security are alarming," states the State of Food and Agriculture 2016 report. "There is thus an urgent need to support smallholders in adapting to climate change.

"The greatest vulnerabilities are seen in areas of sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia, where millions of people are likely to face greater risk of food insecurity as a result of climate change by the 2050s," the report says.

Since agriculture provides a livelihood for almost two-thirds of the world's extremely poor, or some 750 million people, climate change impact on agriculture is already ravaging vulnerable rural populations.

It is estimated that by 2050, about 50 million more people will be at risk of undernourishment because of climate change.

Depending on the climate change scenario and socio-economic development path, between 34 million and 600 million more people could suffer from hunger by 2080.

Threat of hunger

To avoid crises like the drought in East Africa, the world must find ways to tackle the threat of hunger, poverty and climate change together. With climate change out of the equation, 312 million people globally will be at risk of hunger in the 2050s, and 300 million people in the 2080s.

According to the report, climate change is expected to seriously compromise agriculture's ability to feed the most vulnerable, thus impeding progress towards the eradication of hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

Already the effects of climate change are being felt in the form of higher temperatures, frequent extreme weather events, water shortages, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, land degradation, the disruption of ecosystems and the loss of biodiversity.

For the world to meet the demand for food in 2050, annual production of crops and livestock must increase by 60 per cent compared with production levels in 2006.

About 80 per cent of the required increase will need to come from higher yields and 10 per cent from increases in the number of cropping seasons per year.

According to the report, climate change affects food availability through its increasingly adverse impacts on crop yields, fish stocks and animal health and productivity especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where most food insecure people live.

It is estimated that, in the absence of economic growth, the impact of climate change could increase the projected number of the extremely poor in the world by 122 million people by 2030. In a scenario of prosperity, the increase would be 16 million.

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