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b. Climate change

142. Climate change is forecast to lead to a 6% reduction in global agriculture production by 2080 (Conway 2012) but this average figure masks enormous variation: in some of the world’s poorest countries, experts predict that higher temperatures and less rainfall could reduce farmers' harvests by a fifth, as soon as 2030 (DFID 2012). 
143. Africa is disproportionately affected by climate change: although it contributes less than 4% to overall global greenhouse gas emissions, African countries are among the most vulnerable to climate change because of their dependence on rain-fed agriculture, high levels of poverty, low levels of human and physical capital, and poor infrastructure (IFPRI 2009); they also have very low capacity to adapt to climate change. Sub-Saharan Africa is dominated by fragile ecosystems. Nearly 75% of its surface area is dry land or desert, making the continent highly vulnerable to droughts and floods.  In the decade leading up to 2006, Africa experience almost a third of the catastrophes relating to water that occurred at a worldwide level, with almost 135 million people affected by droughts, equivalent to 80% of the total population (World Water Forum 2006).
144. The impacts on African agricultural output will be substantial.  IFPRI’s crop model indicates that average rice, wheat and maize yields in sub-Saharan Africa will decline by up to 14%, 22% and 5% respectively by 2050 as a result of climate change, despite the positive effect of rising temperature levels on crop yields. (Rising temperatures are however expected to have a positive impact on livestock production (Juma 2013)).
145. Although agriculture is one of the main drivers of climate change - the agricultural sector generates around 10-12% of global greenhouse emissions (IPCC 2007), and when emissions form agricultural fuel use, fertiliser production and land use change are included, this increases to 30% from a sector that generates only 4% of global GDP (Smith et al in Conway 2012) - the overwhelming majority of these emissions are generated in the industrial agricultural sector, with African smallholders currently making a negligible contribution.  When it comes to Africa’s small-scale farmers, the policy focus needs to be squarely on adaptation rather than mitigation, particularly as adaptation needs are currently severely underfunded (CIDSE 2012).
146. Smallholder farmers are especially affected by climate change, in particular by the increasing loss of biodiversity and resource degradation it is giving rise to.  To cope with the impacts of climate change, existing agricultural practices need to be adapted.  “Climate-smart agriculture”, as promoted by the FAO, involves, among other strategies, replacing chemical fertiliser and manure (which produces high nitrous oxide emissions) with green manure and using micro-dosing of fertiliser; improving water harvesting and retention and the use of micro-irrigation; improving ecosystem management and biodiversity protection through increased use of agroecological techniques; preservation of genetic crops and breeds and their wild relatives to facilitate generation of new varietals that are better adapted to changed climatic conditions; and increasing use of agroforestry (FAO 2010).
147. Farmers need to make these adjustments to farming practices themselves; but funding climate change adaptation requires public investment on an enormous scale. IFPRI estimated in 2009 that an additional US$7 billion a year will need to be invested globally to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Sub-Saharan African investment needs dominate, making up about 40% of the total; of that amount, the vast majority is for rural roads, although investment needs for irrigation and research are also substantial (IFPRI 2009).    
148. In addition to dramatically increasing overall investment in climate change adaptation, governments and development agencies also need to redirect agricultural spending and aid away from high-emitting practices towards models that are not only environmentally sustainable but also accessible to the most vulnerable (CIDSE 2012).

149. Governments and development agencies can make a number of investments to support smallholders’ capacity to cope with the effects of climate change[1]:

  • support participatory technology development, drawing on agroecological sciences and public extension services;
  • make large-scale investments in climate-focused research, including at decentralised tertiary institutions;
  • invest in climate-resilient rural infrastructure such as flood-proof storerooms;
  • improve weather reporting and facilitate increased access to information;
  • support community-based adaptation strategies;
  • improve data collection, dissemination, and analysis.

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[1] Drawn from IFPRI 2009, DFID 2012, Juma 2013, ASFG 2010.

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