Author (s) : Abdulai Jalloh, Mbène Dièye Faye, Harold Roy-Macauley, Paco Sérémé, Robert Zougmoré, Timothy S. Thomas, and Gerald C. Nelson
Organisation affiliée: Alimenterre
Type of publication : Article académique
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Climate variability is a reality that is affecting rural livelihoods in West Africa today and presenting a growing challenge in the region, as in many other parts of the African continent and elsewhere. Climate change will have far-reaching consequences for the poor and marginalized groups among which the majority depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and have a lower capacity to adapt. Weather-related crop failures, fishery collapses, and livestock deaths in addition to losses of property are already causing economic losses and undermining food security in West Africa.
The results of the individual country chapters clearly underscore the general concern for climate change in West Africa. The West African economies are especially vulnerable to climate change as a result of their heavy dependence on rainfed agriculture.
Despite the variation among models, there is a clear indication of changes in precipitation with either a reduction in the heavy-rainfall areas, particularly along the coast, or an increase in areas of the Sahel hitherto devoid of much rain. Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, and Togo, which are among the countries that receive the most rainfall, are shown to experience a reduction of at least 50–100 millimeters of rainfall per year, whereas Sahelian countries like Burkina Faso, Niger, and Senegal that receive little rainfall are shown to have substantial increases in rainfall (50–100 millimeters), with Niger predicted to receive as much as 200 millimeters by 2050.
High temperatures above the ranges tolerated by crops will definitely affect the physiology of plants, including staple crops in the region, with consequences of decreased productivity that will affect food production. This situation could be compounded by genetic erosion due to the inability of plants to survive harsh conditions. Similarly, animal production, including livestock and fisheries, could be adversely affected.
The West African economies are especially vulnerable to climate change as a result of their heavy dependence on rainfed agriculture
The climate projections for Africa presented in the Forth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change include a likely average temperature increase of 1.5°–4°C in this century, which is higher than the global average. Acting now could help save the 10–15 percent of species that will otherwise likely be lost in an Africa that is 2°C warmer than in preindustrial days.
On the other hand, a drastic increase in rainfall in hitherto dry areas could pose serious challenges to adaptation and the conservation of biodiversity, at least in the short run. Increased humidity and flooding could threaten the existence of plants and animals adapted to dry conditions in the Sahel.
The results of the study presented in this monograph clearly show that climate change will adversely affect the productivity of the major staples in the region, with relatively greater effects on sorghum and groundnuts, which are key crops in the Sahelian countries. Sorghum is the leading cereal crop in Burkina Faso and Nigeria and the second most important crop in Niger. These three countries cultivate more than 50 percent of the sorghum area in the region.
The challenges of climate change are also opening the avenue for serious consideration of the farming systems in the area with regard to crop diversification as well as crop–livestock integration to minimize the risk of crop failure or livestock deaths. This was specifically identified for Burkina Faso and Niger in the Sahel as well as for Togo, which stretches from the coast into the Sahel. Interestingly, the three countries share borders.
Most of the country chapter authors advocate for crop diversification to reduce the risk of crop failure.
The decline in exports is related to both population and income growth. All countries have recorded improvements in under-five mortality and life expectancy due to increased vaccinations against key diseases as well as improvements in per capita income. Unfortunately, the dismal level of family planning among the vast majority of the population in West Africa, particularly in rural areas, has resulted in a rapidly growing population that is not matched by the stagnant or slow increase in food production, which largely remains in the hands of smallholders who lack the vital inputs to deal with the growing challenges of the climate.
Beyond population growth, net rural–urban migration, particularly by youth, is identified by most of the country authors as a challenge in meeting the consequences of climate change, such as high unemployment rates, overcrowding, and inadequate social services, which are also leading to armed robberies and increased strikes, all of which are part of a recipe for civil unrest that can undermine political stability.
Most of the country chapter authors advocate for crop diversification to reduce the risk of crop failure
It should also be noted that in addition to the direct effects of climate on crop productivity, heavy rains could pose a serious challenge to the condition of roads, particularly the unpaved feeder roads vital for the transport of inputs to farming areas and produce to market. This is likely to be a problem especially in the humid forest regions of countries along the coast.
There is therefore a need to make the necessary changes to improve agricultural productivity with special attention given to climate change, which has been clearly identified as a critical force driving low agricultural productivity in the region.
In view of the foregoing, we make the following suggestions for consideration by the regional economic body the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as relevant regional organizations that have a stake in the development of the region, particularly with regard to agricultural development related to climate change adaptation in the region.
- AGRHYMET, which is responsible for weather monitoring in the Sahelian countries, should be supported in extending its activities to the remaining countries in the West African region to ensure reliable weather data collection for the region.
- There is a need for targeted research on climate change related to agriculture. The strategic framework of CORAF/WECARD (Conseil Ouest et Centre Africain pour la Recherche et le Developement Agricole / Western and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development) for climate change research needs support for both promotion and implementation.
- The many rivers in the region (such as the Niger, Senegal, and Volta Rivers) have a tremendous potential for irrigation. Most of the major rivers run through several countries that have an increasing need to develop dams for electricity and irrigation. There is definitely a need for the effective coordination of such dams along the rivers to ensure maximum benefit and avoid conflict in their exploitation.
- There is a growing awareness of the need for conservation of natural resources, particularly forests, and the development of parks. Many such designated areas are adjacent to neighboring countries, which necessitates collaboration between or among countries sharing such common borders and goals. An example is the Gola Peace Park between Sierra Leone and Liberia.
- ECOWAS should pursue efforts in economic integration, particularly the adoption of a common currency and harmonization of the multiple trade policies of member states to encourage trade within the region. Effective implementation of the ECOWAS Agricultural Policy will be a step in the right direction. • The international road network in the region should be improved to facilitate the movement of goods and people throughout the region.
In the wake of the growing awareness of climate change, it is imperative that there be developments in climate science as well as the biophysical sciences related to agriculture, particularly innovations that will contribute to realistic adaptation to climate change.
The German government is supporting the West African scientific community that deals with the impact of climate change by establishing a Science Service Center on Climate and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL) linked with the scientific community in Germany.
The resilience of resource-poor farmers to the effects of climate change in West Africa will be supported by the availability of reliable climate information that will guide farmers’ management of scarce resources. Improved modeling could guide farmers’ decisionmaking as well as policy formulation. Developing and making available crop varieties with a wide range of adaptations to moisture and temperature could ensure the preservation of a valuable gene pool in a changing climate situation. Every effort should be made to capitalize on indigenous knowledge across the region to provide adequate information on relevant entry points for research and development. There will be a need for the harmonization of efforts and procedures to reflect the regional perspective.
It is imperative that there be developments in climate science as well as the biophysical sciences related to agriculture, particularly innovations that will contribute to realistic adaptation to climate change
New initiatives are needed ones that integrate and apply the best and most promising approaches, tools, and technologies. The involvement of farmers, policymakers, researchers, the private sector, and civil society in the research process is vital. Successful mitigation of climate change and adaptation to it will entail changes in individual behavior, technology, institutions, agricultural systems, and socioeconomic systems. These changes cannot be achieved without improving interactions among scientists and decisionmakers at all levels of society.
In this novel approach, which is characterized by systemic facilitation and mutual learning among all actors, value-chain and innovation approaches are employed. In it the development of innovation platforms where mutual learning occurs among all stakeholders (including producers, processors, researchers, policymakers, and others) is essential.
Finally, it is worth noting that the actions of individual countries will have consequences for neighboring countries with regard to climate. It is therefore in the interest of all countries to collaborate as much as possible in meeting the challenges of climate change, improving livelihoods in a way that will ensure the realization of economic development and improved welfare goals, and attaining the Millennium Development Goals.
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