Sunday, April 21, 2024

Climate change compromises agricultural production

According to the Bioenergy and Food Security Projects (BEFS) on Botswana, it is articulated that climate change could have serious consequences for agricultural production and food security in the country and other countries of the southern African region. Carbon dioxide emissions have steadily increased over the past few decades. In 2008, liquid and solid fuel consumption accounted for 52.7 percent and 47.3 percent of total emissions respectively.

Land use change and especially deforestation and forest degradation are major sources of GHG emissions in Botswana. Forested areas are rapidly shrinking to meet domestic demand for wood and fuel and export demand for wood products. With regard to the former, biomass and waste account for 27 percent and 31 percent respectively of primary energy supply and final energy supply. In addition to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, unregulated harvesting of wood fuel is causing other environmental problems as well, especially in terms of biodiversity loss.

The paper also states that over the last ten years Botswana has implemented a range of policies affecting the agricultural, energy and environmental sectors. The development of better data on the topics covered in this brief will strengthen the government’s ability to assess the effectiveness of these policy interventions and improve future decisions regarding food security and energy sector development in Botswana.

A 2008 Botswana Environmental and Climate Change Analysis paper also concludes that “the welfare of the people, the performance of the economy, and the state of the environment in Botswana are all closely linked to the climate. According to the government, the country is “highly vulnerable to climate change” due to its fragile ecosystems and (semi)-aridity. Climate change is likely toad to existing stresses in Botswana causing significant changes in prevalent vegetation and rangeland cover, affecting species types, composition and distribution, as well as those depending on them. The most vulnerable sectors are identified as agriculture/livestock, woodlands/forests, water and health”.

Botswana’s temperature is also projected to rise between and three degrees by 2050, resulting in higher potential evaporations rates. Future trends in rainfall are uncertain, but the overwhelming majority of general circulation models predict a rainfall decrease, possibly with more intense rains locally. Desertification is a major concern to Botswana.

It is also acknowledged that there are strong links between poverty and climate change vulnerability. Vulnerability is a reflection of human capacity to cope with risks or shocks. The Botswana population has always been exposed to climate variability, especially drought, and a range of individual and societal coping mechanisms have evolved.

In a 2011 research paper titled “Climate change risks for African agriculture” authored by Christopher Muller, Wolfgang Cramer, Willian Hare and Hermann Lotze-Campen it is reckoned that climate change will negatively impact agriculture in the areas of existing cropping systems and infrastructure will have to change to meet future demand. With respect to growing population and the threat of negative climate change impacts, science will now have to show if and how agricultural production can be significantly improved.

The study states that the projected impacts is very broad because of the range of underlying assumptions, such as green  house gas emission trajectories, climate model parameterizations, biophysical impact estimates, management practices, and socioeconomic conditions in the future.

It is acknowledged in the paper that rainfall patterns are the dominant climatic factor for agricultural production in Africa, although a new review of historical events has shown that sensitivity to higher temperatures could also be considerable. “Of all major world regions, Africa is projected to rank highest in drought-caused yield reductions. Increasing temperatures exacerbate the effects of water and rainfall reductions and can partially remove any advantage that occurs as a result of increased precipitation”, the paper argues.

The paper also notes that climate change is projected to compromise agricultural production in smallholder systems with little adaptive capacity, as currently prevalent in many parts of Africa.  It is also reckoned that although there is still no comprehensive continent-wide assessment for all major cropping systems in Africa, the new results show more clearly how the current crop production systems might be impacted in regionally differing ways; some regions are at risk for severe reduction or even total loss of agricultural production, whereas others could benefit from improved production conditions as a result of projected increases in precipitation.

On the backdrop of the anticipated climate change impact, the paper implores that “future agricultural and development policies will have to consider these risks to current production systems, the livelihood of African farmers, and the associated market and infrastructure”.

According to the study, climate change impacts on agriculture are of major concern not only to African farmers, but also to national governments, regional decision makers, international organizations, variability of yields has been a major cause of migration in Africa.

Another 2012 research paper on “Climate Change and Agricultural Productivity” reiterates that agriculture is the economic sector that is most vulnerable to climate change. According to the latest estimates’, farmers’ adaptation of farm production to climate change is inevitable. The climate attributes that are expected to have the most direct impacts on agricultural productivity are the rise in temperature, the change in frequency and intensity of precipitation and of extreme weather phenomena, and the level in increase of carbon dioxide emissions, available for photosynthesis.

The paper further reckons that “generally, agriculture is the primary sector that mostly depends on climate change. The choice of optimal crops cultivated and the choice of the optimal planting and harvesting times depend on the weather conditions prevailing in each region. This implies that the impending climate change due to increase in greenhouse gases will have direct effects on agricultural production and productivity and, consequently on farmers’ income”.

The paper also states that climate change is a global issue, since it depends on the total concentration of carbon dioxide and other gases (carbon dioxide equivalents) related to the greenhouse effect. Therefore, only an international common policy of emissions reduction can successfully address the problem.

However, even if global concentrations of carbon dioxide equivalents could be stabilized, scientists predict that temperatures will continue to increase for several years. The scientists participating in the Inter-governmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) have estimated a number of climate change stabilization scenarios, using target values for the concentrations of carbon dioxide equivalents in the atmosphere.

The study further recommend that policy makers should promote actions that assist in changing land use and crops, as well as crop cultivation techniques. Finally, policy makers should take into account the importance of agricultural development through the pillars of economic development, environmental conservation and social equity, as sustainable development is the essence of why climate change matters.

According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change titled “Impacts, Vulnerabilities and Adaptation in Developing countries”, it is also acknowledged that many areas in Africa are recognized as having climates that are among the most variable in the world on seasonal and decadal time scales. Floods and droughts can occur in the same area within months of each other.

These events can lead to famine and widespread disruption of socioeconomic well-being. Estimates show that that one third of African people already live in drought prone areas and 2002 million people are exposed to drought each year.

The convention notes that many factors contribute and compound the impacts of current climate variability in Africa and will have negative effects on the continent’s ability to cope with climate change. These include poverty, illiteracy and lack of skills, weak institutions, limited infrastructure, lack of technology and information, low levels of primary education and health care, poor access to resources, low management capabilities and armed conflicts.


Read this week's paper