Dark Clouds or Silver Linings? How Climate Change Will Affect Agriculture in Southern Africa

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The Limpopo River Basin has suffered from the effects of climate change, and now has very little water. Farmers in the region are learning to adapt to periods of drought. (Derek Keats)

Farming in southern Africa is risky business, especially when the weather is working against you. Chapita Ramovha, a subsistence farmer in south Zimbabwe, remembers a time when the Limpopo River—a major agricultural resource in the region—was a "marvel to watch, a source of food and income." The Limpopo River Basin is now one of the most water-stressed areas in southern Africa, suffering extreme droughts every 10 to 20 years. "It is nothing but a dust river," Ramovha says.

The effects of a changing climate—rising temperatures, extended droughts, frequent flooding—can be seen worldwide, but the associated risks will be felt most acutely in nations that are highly dependent on agriculture. In much of southern Africa (namely, Lesotho, Zambia, and Zimbabwe), up to 70 percent of the population is employed in smallholder farming, and many of the region's poor people spend most of their income on food. So, what can be done to help farmers in this already fragile environment adapt to the challenges of climate change?

InSouthern African Agriculture and Climate Change, a book published by theInternational Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), scientists assess the climate-induced threats to agriculture facing eight of the region's countries. Together with partners from theCGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Securityand theFood, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Network, IFPRI researchers used a variety of projected climate scenarios and different crop models—one assuming no climate-change adaptation methods and one supposing relevant technological improvements—to explore the best course of action for farming in the region from now until 2050.

Read more : http://foodtank.org/news/2013/10/dark-clouds-or-silver-linings-how-climate-change-will-affect-agriculture-in