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Maize production in southern Africa to drop 30%

28 November 2012, The Zimbabwean

Rockefeller Foundation says, production of maize a critical staple is expected to drop by 30% in southern Africa by 2030 as a result of climate change.
Lack of economic activity and poverty, render African countries, and especially the poorest communities, disproportionately vulnerable to climate change impacts.

In a study commissioned by the foundation titled Climate Change and Adaptation in African Agriculture undertaken by the Stockholm Environment Institute reveals that climate change has already begun in many parts of the continent to alter the dynamics of drought, rainfall and heat waves, and trigger secondary stresses such as the spread of pests, increased competition for resources, the collapse of financial institutions, and attendant biodiversity losses.

“In regions of east and southern Africa, this vulnerability is further heightened by the large number of households that depend on the already marginalised natural resource base for their livelihoods” the study reveals.

This revelation comes at a time when agriculture continue long to being a stepchild in global negotiations over the climate, as feeding Africa and the world at a time of climate change is one of the major challenges.

The foundation says over the past 30 years, global corn and wheat production has decreased 3 to 5% in response to climate warming, while soybean and rice production have remained stable. The drop-off in production may be responsible for the 6% rise in food prices since 1980. A 60 billion dollar a year jump in what consumers paid for food.”

Other research materials being distribute at the COP18 conference, being held in Qatari capital, Doha revealed that global food production must rise by 70% by 2050 to feed over nine billion people worldwide.

Without strong adaptation measures, climate change will reduce food crop yields by 16% worldwide and by 28% in Africa over the next 50 years. It is unlikely that the price and yield volatility will continue to rise as extreme weather continues, with further negative effects on livelihoods and placing food security at risk.

David Lobell and his team from the Program on Food Security and The Environment, Stanford University in a report published recently examined historical food production and weather data from around the world, between the years 1980 and 2008.

Lobell said one way of understanding how climate change is likely to affect global food production and food security is to better understand the recent past.

More effective agricultural systems and practices are urgently needed to decrease hunger and improve economic development, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Although the Rockefeller Foundation is making a major difference through its investments in the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the predicted impacts of climate change could threaten the success and sustainability of this green revolution.

In a paper titled What Next for Agriculture After Durban? propose alternative agricultural practices, tailored to different regions, and these show promise for reducing net GHG emissions and maintaining or improving yields despite extreme weather. Dubbed Climate Smart Agriculture was promoted extensively in Durban, South Africa, with the support of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

One of the practical and successful examples is an agroforestry project in Niger. The project on a 5 million hectare land has benefited 1,25 million households, sequestered carbon, and produced an extra 500,000 tons of grain per year.

Dr Lovemore Munyoro a climate change expert based in Harare, Zimbabwe says scientific assessments point to climate change as a growing threat to agricultural yields and food security.

Munyoro says in Africa recent droughts and floods in the Horn of Africa, affected food production and prices. “Frequency of such extreme weather events will increase, which, when combined with poverty, weak governance, conflict, and poor market access, can result in hunger and famine. At the same time, agriculture exacerbates climate change when greenhouse gases are released by land clearing, inappropriate fertilizer use, and other practices,” he says.

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