Climate Change and Food Security in Africa
Globally, agriculture is widely accepted as one of the sectors at most risk
from climate change challenges. Due to impacts of increased temperatures, reduced
rainfall and increased frequency of variation in extreme events especially in
the tropics. Agriculture is central to the food security and economic growth
of developing nations, providing the main source of livelihood for the worlds
poor. Climate change will impact significantly on food security. It will affect
food production and availability, the stability of food supplies, access to
food and food utilization. However, the poorest farmers are the most vulnerable
and the most challenged to the impacts of climate change. Africa is the region
with greatest risk of increased hunger and threatened livelihoods due to climate
change. This study briefly reviews the potential impact of climate change on
food security in reducing by half the proportion of people suffering from hunger
Received: January 09, 2012;
Accepted: February 20, 2012;
Published: May 15, 2012
Studies and issues on climate change have assumed great significance within
the last few years since the Villack meeting in Austria, 1985. Global warming
is likely to reduce agricultural production in the tropics, where many developing
countries are located (Darwin, 2001). However, Africa
is the region with the greatest risk of increased hunger due to climate change
(Parry et al., 2009) and there is a looming food
crisis in many countries in Africa (IIED, 2011) in addition
to hardcore poverty, public health problems and changes in human settlement
pattern across the region (Begum et al., 2011;
Mia et al., 2012). In Africa, food production
per capita has however failed to keep up with the population growth rate, with
rural population almost trebling in sub-Saharan Africa. In a few mega cities
within the continent, rapid urbanization and the shift in consumption patterns
that come with increasing income further compounds this problem. Given this
scenario, one can appreciate the enormity of the food crisis facing the continent.
Food security is an increasingly important issue. This is because in a world
where competition for land, coupled with climate change, providing sufficient
food for the current global population of 6.9 billion is difficult to contemplate,
let alone for a projected 9.0 billion people in 2050. Globally, 925 million
people are undernourished and 16,000 children die from malnutrition each day
particularly in developing countries (FAO, 2010) while
many (in millions) have livelihood threatened due to climate change especially
in Africas drylands (Begum et al., 2011;
Mwangombe et al., 2011). Agriculture is central
to the food security and economic growth of developing countries and is the
main source of livelihood for the worlds poor especially in sub-Saharan
Africa (Ogundari and Ojo, 2005; Wheeler
and Kay, 2010; Ogundari and Brummer, 2011). Global
food demand is expected to increase by 50% by 2030 and by almost 70% in 2050
(FAO, 2006). Energy demand too will increase, as well
as the demand for water for people, agriculture and the environment. Climate
change will affect food production and availability, the stability of food supplies,
accessibility to food and food utilization (Schmidhuber
and Tubiello, 2007). Experts predict that climate change could make between
500,000-1 million km2 of land unsuitable for food crops in the next
decade. This will definitely affect the livelihood of the 20-35 million people
who currently live and survive on agriculture in Africa. Increases in mean global
temperature will have numerous effects on agricultural production, prominent
among them being changes in growing season-the length of time that soil temperature
and soil moisture conditions are suitable for crop growth. The earth bodies
of water will expand, raising sea levels and reducing the amount of land available
for agriculture while extreme weather events such as storms and floods may increase
in frequency as well as numerous public health problems will be brought to the
fore (Darwin, 2001; Amiri and Eslamian,
2010). These effects and others mean that national agricultural yields in
the continent are likely to fall over the next decade (Fig. 1).
In Africa, food security has been fragile, the smallholder resource poor farmers are relying on low yielding varieties and species poorly suited to local conditions with limited opportunities to change cropping patterns; the impact of climate change further exacerbates this problem. Climate change (global warming) shortens growing seasons in the tropics and lengthens growing seasons at high altitudes while mid-latitude impacts are mixed. Food insecurity in Africa is extensive due to low crop yields, lack of income, drought, underdeveloped markets and many civil unrest.
||Impact of climate change (without carbon fertilization effects)
on African agricultural productivity by 2080
Before 2000, declining food prices had provided livelihood and allowed millions
of people in Africa to escape from poverty and hunger. However, since the turn
of the millennium, rapid population growth and urbanization in the continent
have forced prices of basic food commodities to climb steadily. Between 2007
and 2009, price increases of staple foods reached alarming proportions, triggering
concerns of numerous riots and global food crisis that has been widely reported
(Ewing and Msangi, 2009). The underlying causes of rising
food prices are many and complex. More important are structural factors that
include rising energy costs, stagnation in crop productivity, policy inadequacies
or failures that constrain agricultural development, climate change, rising
demand for higher value and grain-intensive foods (meat) and diversion of crops
or croplands to biofuel production. Among these factors, climate change has
borne the brunt because of adverse weather conditions and extreme events that
affect crop and livestock productivity that are directly linked to livelihood
and food security.
Climate change impact on the physical asset base: Widespread drought
in recent years in both the northern and southern hemispheres, combined with
increasing awareness that climate change is likely to make such extreme conditions
more frequent, is starting to draw a wider attention to farming and food security
(ACIAR, 2008). The landscape on which agriculture produces
food and materials is a resource under pressure particularly in Africa. Generally,
global land suffers severe constraints for crop and livestock production: 13.2%
is too cold, 26.5% is too dry, 4.6% is too steep, 2.0% is too wet and 19.8%
has impoverished soils (Slater et al., 2007).
In Africa about 8% of the soil is found on fertile lands while 92% is found
on marginal lands. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has estimated
that the area which is prone to desertification worldwide is approximately 30
million km2, of which 6.9 million km2 (or 23%) are in
Africa, south of the Sahara (ALF, 1989). It is estimated
that in Africa by 2050, climate change would have made an additional 10-15%
(742 million hectares) of total land area severely constrained for crop/livestock
production. However, increased frequency of extreme weather events could depress
yield by damaging crops at key growth stages (Rosenzweig
et al., 2002) particularly in tropical regions as opposed to temperate
environments. In no future, crops will be grown in more variable climates and
these will also have direct impacts on crop yields (Wheeler
and Kay, 2010). Such impacts will mean that crop and livestock production
will become riskier under climate change with grave consequences on future food
supplies (Omolehin et al., 2007). Agriculture
currently accounts for 24% of world output and uses 40% of land area (FAO,
2003). The vast majority of the continents agriculture is rain fed.
It is highly dependent on the climate and human dependence on agricultural livelihoods,
particularly by the poor, is high in Africa and other developing countries.
Climate change will thus increase competition and access to land as some regions
become marginal or even unsuitable for food crop and livestock production.
Compared with 1990 economic conditions, modeling shows that land resource or
the physical asset base changes due to climate change which reduces agricultural
land in tropical regions where many developing countries are located (Darwin,
2001). In general, diseases are expected in low altitudes and developing
countries, reflecting both declining potential land available for crop and livestock
production reported above and changes in productivity due to climate change.
Despite recent advances in analyzing and modeling the economic effects of global
warming, information about climate change and food security in Africa remains
Climate change impact on food security: There is an awakening to the
fact that the worlds food crops are vulnerable to rapid changes in environmental
parameters and this combined with diminishing and degrading land and water resources
particularly in the tropics (Africa) has placed food supplies in a precarious
position. Africa and other developing countries are net food importers, where
food accounts for 70% of the household expenditure. The rising cost of food
has made it harder for those living close to the poverty line to survive, with
their real income falling as they absorb rising food prices.
Climate change may slow down rates of improvement in food security (Slater
et al., 2007). Although the projections are highly uncertain due
partly to the simplification of the definition of food security narrowly to
mean food availability. More recently, however, the concept of food security
is generally accepted as entailing not only food availability but perhaps more
importantly food accessibility through production, purchase in the market or
food transfers (ALF, 1989). Most models suggest that
climate change will slow or reverse the poverty reducing impact of agriculture,
with, by one estimate, some 600 million additional people are at risk of hunger
if temperature increases by over 3°C (Warren et al.,
2006) especially in developing countries. Within sub-Saharan Africa, the
negative impacts of climate change are likely to be strongest in north and south,
possibly with some unlikely positive impacts in Central African countries (Slater
et al., 2007).
When the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were first announced
in September 2000, a deadline of 2015 was set to half global hunger and poverty.
At that time, 15 years seemed long enough. Today we are past the half way mark,
while progress has been substantial, there is still a way to go in Africa. The
twin global crises - dramatic food price rises in 2008 and financial collapses
and recession in 2008/2009 coupled with climate change have made the task of
meeting MDGs more urgent. The recent global food crisis hit the developing world
hard and the poor the hardest (ACIAR, 2009).
It is now generally accepted that increases in food and agricultural production
will not by themselves guarantee food security for the people of Africa. Africa's
food production systems are generally resource constrained, organisationally
complex and ecologically vulnerable (ALF, 1989). Thus,
food production and increase must come from sustainable and well managed food
Climate change impact on storage, trade and food transfers: Access to food encompasses both physical and economic aspects. Physical access to food relates both to the adequacy of supply and to the efficiency of the distribution system including storage, preservation, transport, marketing and processing. Economic access to food relates to the ability of individuals, households or communities to establish entitlement over a requisite amount of food. In Africa, climate change affects seasonal variations in food supply and consumption patterns particularly among poorer families or in remote areas where the community is less integrated into wider markets. The challenge of improving food security in Africa would therefore include actions aimed at improving the procurement system and the food marketing system as well as actions aimed at providing the people at risk of hunger with income which will permit them to purchase their required food.
In Africa, considerable efforts are currently being made to rehabilitate regional
and cross border roads and a number of international agencies have assisted
rural feeder road rehabilitation and construction. The transport network is
still comparatively weak which impact on food trade and transfers (Jothilakshmi
et al., 2011). Moreso, the smallholder farmer that produces all the
bulk of agricultural products have received little protection as they normally
receive little or no subsidies while supporting heavy taxes on their exports.
This discrimination coupled with climate change has had consequences for both
agricultural production and income generation and contributed to much of the
rural poverty and hunger which affects livelihood and food security in the continent.
Africa is primarily an agricultural commodity exporter and food importer. The trade relationship of the continent with other regions will necessarily affect the continents food policy since food security does not depend solely on domestic food production. Presently, the reduced demand for Africa's primary commodities coupled with the depressed prices of exports-the direct result of the global economic meltdown and climate change have seriously increased the costs of providing food security to Africans. With the burden of indebtedness, many countries in the continent can hardly cope with investing in increasing domestic food production or paying for commercial imports. Therefore, many of these countries are more and more dependent on massive food aid to offset domestic deficit. The problem, however, is that food aid which was originally seen as an emergency measure due to extreme weather events (climate change) has become an essential component of the food security schemes of these countries which is not in any way sustainable.
Adaptation strategies: Climate change is already being felt and its effect is expected to continue and to increase especially in the tropics. For different reasons, poor rural communities, small businesses and family farms with limited capacity to adapt seem particularly vulnerable to climate change, requiring support in order to successfully adapt to the quick changes they are experiencing. Farmers first priority is to seek opportunities to make their existing livelihoods, like agriculture more resilient.
In Africa, most national governments are concerned not only with the food security
of individuals or households but also with national food security, that is,
the extent to which the national food system can function without excessive
reliance on external food aid. Farmers and African governments have several
options to counter continued, long run global warming that affects food security.
Farmer adaptations, such as switching crop varieties or introducing more suitable
crops. Such crops require adaptation to more prolonged and frequent droughts,
changes in rainfall distribution, more storms and other extreme weather events,
increased and changing pest loads and changes in soil water balances can often
be undertaken by individual farmers (Darwin, 2001; Knox
et al., 2010). Thus, the essence of crop diversification is emphasized
as an adaptation strategy (Ghosh, 2011). The challenge
is therefore to squeeze more productivity from biodiversity and agronomy to
cover for diminishing resource base due to climate change to improve livelihood.
Climate change affects all aspects of human life, this means taking the ecosystem into account, as well as the social and economic aspects that shape local livelihoods.
In emergencies (droughts, floods etc.) donor countries willingly provide food supplies but this provides only short-term relief, what is needed is long-term relief. The time to act is now, where selective breeding that creates crops and animals specifically adapted to Africa's agro-climatic conditions, with idiosyncrasies in soil, pest, disease and rainfall profiles, in addition to differences in farming practices.
Without this in-built adaptation to local conditions and climate change variables,
introduced crop/ animal species tend to perform poorly with grave consequences
on food security and livelihoods. Adaptation does not guarantee that farming
will be able to continue in an area, or if it does, that farm incomes will remain
unchanged. Some adaptation will involve shifting agricultural production from
one location to another or complete change in agronomic practices (Brahim
et al., 2009). In some situations, high yielding varieties that withstand
the impact may be the most suitable (Srivani et al.,
2007). However, farming must adapt to and contribute to counteracting climate
The challenge of climate change and food security in Africa would therefore include actions aimed at improving the procurement and food marketing systems as well as actions aimed at providing those at risk of hunger with income that will permit them to purchase their required food. Drawing up multi-year food requirement plans, establishment of food security stocks, prevention of post-harvest food losses and an early warning system are very necessary. Thus, developing countries must be helped to build capacity through structural reforms to rebuild run-down or destroyed farming infrastructure following man made and natural calamities to address food security and climate change issues. The distribution system requires the development of adequate infrastructure such as markets, roads, transport and storage. The establishment of market intelligence information units and the provision of incentives/subsidies to both producers and traders.
However, it is not surprising that there will be no one programme of action
or policy initiative that will solve the challenge of climate change and food
security. This challenge involves complex interactions with natural resources,
social and political systems, economics, trade and policy. Small farms that
combine stable and diverse production, that generate and sustain their inputs
and those that have favourable energy ratios and good links to markets, comprise
an effective approach to achieving food security, income generation and environmental
conservation. However, multifaceted response adapting the agricultural system
and climatic changes to sustainable food security is needed, if Africa is to
be part of the global efforts to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty. However,
boosting agricultural productivity and food security in Africa, especially in
the face of climate change challenges cannot be achieved without the benefits
of cutting edge science (IIED, 2011). Advances in technology
development and transfer, capacity building and policy research must be harnessed
and linked to indigenous knowledge systems.
Food has become one of the most important items of discussion in any agenda on African development during the last two decades. The focus on poverty reduction in the past three years has drawn attention to the challenge of achieving lasting food security. The wish has been to find effective and sustainable ways of ensuring that all Africans have access and can afford at all times the minimum quantities and quality of food necessary to lead an active and healthy life in line with the MDGs. A number of global studies on climate change and crop production have combined crop impacts with changes in trade and food demand in order to estimate changes in the number of people at risk of hunger. In Africa, high population growth and regional disparity in income, numbers of persons at risk of hunger due to climate change would be 10-20% greater by 2050.
Many of the expected impacts of climate change on food security will put more pressure on sustainable growth. Climate change however, is likely to exacerbate many of the current challenges already facing the agri-food sector. Adapting local farming practices through a long-term multifaceted approach could reduce the risk of hunger and improve livelihood in line with the MDGs. The broad conclusion is simply that farming, agricultural knowledge and technology need drastic changes. Business as usual is clearly not an option if Africa is to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty in the face of changing climatic conditions.
1: ACIAR, 2008. Partners: In research for development. gene revolution. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research July -October,2008, pp: 2-28.
2: ACIAR, 2009. Partners: In research for development. Millennium Development Goals. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, July - October, 2009, pp: 2-4.
3: ALF, 1989. The challenges of agricultural production and food security in Africa. Proceedings of the International Conference by the Africa Leadership Forum (ALF), July 27-30, 1989, Otta, Nigeria, pp: 65-97
4: Amiri, M.J. and S.S. Eslamian, 2010. Investigation of climate change in Iran. J. Environ. Sci. Technol., 4: 208-216.
CrossRef | Direct Link |
5: Begum, R.A., C. Siwar, R.D.Z.R.Z. Abidin and J.J. Pereira, 2011. Vulnerability of climate change and hardcore poverty in Malaysia. J. Environ. Sci. Technol., 4: 112-117.
CrossRef | Direct Link |
6: Brahim, N., T. Gallali and M. Bernoux, 2009. Effects of agronomic practices on the soil carbon storage potential in Northern Tunisia. Asian J. Agric. Res., 3: 55-66.
CrossRef | Direct Link |
7: Darwin, R., 2001. Climate change and food security. Economic Research Service Agricultural Information Bulletin No. 765-8, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC., USA.
8: Ewing, M. and S. Msangi, 2009. Biofuel production in developing countries: Assessing tradeoffs in welfare and food security. Environ. Sci. Policy. 12: 520-528.
9: FAO, 2003. World agriculture towards 2015/2030: An FAO perspective. Food and Agriculture, Organization of the United Nations, Rome. http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/y4252e/y4252e06.htm.
10: FAO, 2006. World agriculture towards 2030/2050 Prospects for food, nutrition, agriculture and major commodity groups. Interim Report, Global Perspectives studies unit, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
11: FAO, 2010. The state of food and agriculture 2010 -11. Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome. www.Foodsecurityportal.org.
12: IIED, 2011. Integrating climate change into agricultural research and development in Africa. IIED Briefing Papers, pp: 4. http://pubs.iied.org/17099IIED.html.
13: Jothilakshmi, M., D. Thirunavukkarasu and N.K. Sudeepkumar, 2011. Structural changes in livestock service delivery system: A case study of India. Asian J. Agric. Res., 5: 98-108.
CrossRef | Direct Link |
14: Knox, J., J. Morris and T. Hess, 2010. Identifying future risks to UK agricultural crop production. Putting climate change in context. Outlook Agric., 39: 249-256.
15: Ghosh, B.K., 2011. Essence of crop diversification: A study of West Bengal agriculture. Asian J. Agric. Res., 5: 28-44.
CrossRef | Direct Link |
16: Mwangombe, A.W., W.N. Ekaya, W.M. Muiru, V.O. Wasonga, W.M. Mnene, P.N. Mongare and S.W. Chege, 2011. Livelihoods under climate variability and change: An analysis of the adaptive capacity of rural poor to water scarcity in Kenya's drylands. J. Environ. Sci. Technol., 4: 403-410.
CrossRef | Direct Link |
17: Ogundari, K. and S.O. Ojo, 2005. Determinants of technical efficiency in a mixed crop food production in Nigeria, a stochastic parametric approach. East. Afr. J. R. Dev., 21: 15-22.
Direct Link |
18: Ogundari, K. and B. Brummer, 2011. Technical efficiency of Nigerian agriculture: A meta-regression analysis. Outlook Agric., 40: 171-180.
19: Omolehin, R.A., E.A. Nuppenau, J. Steinbach and I. Hoffmann, 2007. Determinants of crop-livestock enterprise combination adoption and its impact on crop productivity among resource-poor rural farmers in Zamfara grazing reserve. Asian J. Agric. Res., 1: 35-49.
CrossRef | Direct Link |
20: Parry, M., C. Rosenzweig and M. Livermore, 2009. Climate change, global food supply and risk of hunger. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 360: 2125-2138.
21: Rosenzweig, C., F.N. Tubiello, R. Goldberg, E. Mills and J. Bloomfield, 2002. Increased crop damage in the U.S from excess precipitation under climate change. Global Environ. Change, 12: 197-202.
Direct Link |
22: Schmidhuber, J. and F.N. Tubiello, 2007. Global food security under climate change. Proc. National Acad. Sci., 104: 19703-19708.
Direct Link |
23: Mia, M.S., R.A. Begum, A.C. Er, R.D.Z.R.Z. Abidin and J.J. Pereira, 2012. Burden of malaria at household level: A baseline review in the advent of climate change. J. Environ. Sci. Technol., 5: 1-15.
24: Slater, R., L. Peskett, E. Ludi and D. Brown, 2007. Climate change, agricultural policy and poverty reduction-how much do we know. Natural Resource Perspectives No. 109. Overseas Development Institute, pp: 1-6. http://www.fanrpan.org/documents/d00417/.
25: Srivani, O., V. Geethalakshmi, R. Jagannathan, K. Bhuvaneswari and L. Guruswamy, 2007. Impact of future climate change on growth and productivity of rice crop in Tamil Nadu. Asian J. Agric. Res., 1: 119-124.
CrossRef | Direct Link |
26: Warren, R., N.W. Arnell, R.J. Nicholls, P.E. Levy and J. Price, 2006. Understanding the regional impacts of climate change: Research report. Tyndall Centre Working Paper 90. Norwich: Tyndall Centre. http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/content/understanding-regional-impacts-climate-change-research-report-prepared-stern-review-economic.
27: Wheeler, T. and M. Kay, 2010. Food crop production, water and climate change in the developing world. Outlook Agric., 39: 239-243.