Climate change will prevent certain staple crops from growing in Africa

Study says Africa will need to adapt land use to cope with changing climate.

A new study is saying that Africa will have to change their model for food production to prevent shortages because climate change will prevent the continent from growing certain crops that have been a staple of African farming for centuries.

Researchers from the University of Leeds, in the United Kingdom, undertook the study to assess when areas that are growing nine of Sub-Saharan Africa’s staple crops that account for almost half of the food production in the region, would have to undergo a “transformational adaptation”, a shift in the food production system in the area.

The team found six of the nine crops would be relatively stable under the predicted climate conditions of the continent, but three crops, beans, maize and bananas, would be much more unstable and areas growing these crops will need to adapt to a different type of food production to survive the changes.  That is not to say that the other crops won’t be affected by the changing conditions, as yields may fall as well.

The research team says “climate smart” crop varieties can lessen the impact of the changing conditions.  They cited a breakthrough in the development of a temperature-resilient bean variety that could provide a needed boost of protein for millions of people, not only in Africa, but across the globe.

Although the team says transformation is unavoidable, there are solutions.  Just because you can’t grow one particular crop any longer doesn’t mean another crop won’t thrive in the same conditions.  In most cases, there are alternative crops that can be grown that are suitable for the area.  The team said it found only “very specific pockets” where the local farmers will have to shift from growing the nine staple crops evaluated in the study.

In certain areas, according to study co-author Julian Ramirez-Villegas, raising livestock may constitute an alternative livelihood option, and some people may choose to migrate to another area, or completely change the land use.  Dr. Ramirez-Villegas called for nations to put planned adaptation for land use into their developmental goals for their individual countries.

The study was carried out by the CGIAR research program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, and was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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