Climate change hits hard on food production

Developing countries like Rwanda need to conserve as much water as it can sustain so as to counteract the problems of global warming and maintain its agriculture at a level commensurate to the needs of the whole population.

Developing countries like Rwanda need to conserve as much water as it can sustain so as to counteract the problems of global warming and maintain its agriculture at a level commensurate to the needs of the whole population.

Rwanda being a hilly, makes it possible to collect water from the steep landscape, conserve it and used for agriculture and domestic purposes. 

However, during wet periods, we tend to neglect running water. There is now need to think beyond traditional level of depending on ordinary or naturally made items or essentials.

Some countries like Egypt tend to suffer long periods of sun hitting and severely warm climate but their agriculture production tend to surpass that of Rwanda.

Well, the Nile-basin irrigation scheme has contributed much to the development of agriculture in Egypt but we also need to find ways of creating waters collection reservoirs and apply technology for the benefit of the society.

Today 90 per cent of the Rwanda’s population depends on agriculture though it contributes less than 10 percent of the country’s economy.

As most of the agriculture activities in African countries hinges on rain fed, any adverse changes in the climate would likely have a devastating effect on the sector in the region, and the livelihood of the majority of the population.

There should be continuous and regular preparedness. People should not relax during wet conditions because they have no control over the ongoing global warming conditions. 

Agriculture is undoubtedly the most important sector in the economies of most non-oil exporting African countries. Based on research carried out by the UN bureau in charge of agriculture (FAO), agriculture constitutes approximately 30% of Africa’s GDP and contributes about 50% of the total export value, with 70% of the continent’s population depending on the sector for their livelihood.  Production is subsistence in nature with a high dependence on the rain.

The climate in Africa is predominantly tropical in nature, and can be classified into three main climatic zones; humid equatorial, dry, and humid temperate.

Within these zones, altitude and other localized variables also produce distinctive regional climates. The climate also varies cyclically over periods of decades and centuries, as well as from year to year.

Climate change, especially indicated by prolonged drought is one of the most serious climatic hazards affecting the agricultural sector in most of the African societies.

Though changes in the climate may affect the whole continent, its distribution may vary across the continent. Climate change in the already arid Northern region of Africa is expected to enhance desertification and bring a gradual decrease in forest cover.

Based on research carried out by international environmental experts, changes in climate is likely to affect all regions of Africa. For example, in the Sahara and sub-sahara regions, rainfall is predicted to drop resulting in soil degradation and an increasing number of dust storms.

In northeast Africa, more intense dry periods and shorter wet seasons are expected to affect even huge river systems such as the Blue Nile, leading to serious water shortages and adverse consequences for the agriculture and forestry sectors throughout the region.

East and Central Africa will also see its agricultural capacity decline. In West Africa, more frequent and longer dry periods are expected, again threatening crop failures. Coastal areas may also be affected by rising sea levels and intrusion of salt water into inland freshwater resources.

Southern Africa also faces similar threats. The staple food for the region, maize, is particularly susceptible to drought. Wetlands of international importance and wildlife are also under threat from drought in Southern Africa.

Climate change therefore, is expected to worsen the food supply hence exacerbate the widespread poverty in the region.

Five main climate changes such as temperature, precipitation, sea level rise, atmospheric carbon dioxide content and incidence of extreme events, may affect the agriculture sector in various ways.

The major one being the reduction in crop yields and agriculture productivity. There is growing evidence that in the tropics and subtropics, where crops have reached their maximum tolerance, crop yields are likely to decrease due to an increase in the temperature.

Increased incidence of pest attacks; an increase in temperature is also likely to be conducive for a proliferation of pests that are detrimental to crop production.

Limit the availability of water; it is expected that the availability of water in most parts of Africa would decrease as a result of climate change.

Exacerbation of drought periods; an increase in temperature and a change in the climate throughout the continent are predicted to cause recurrent droughts in most of the region.

Reduction in soil fertility; an increase in temperature is likely to reduce soil moisture, moisture storage capacity and the quality of the soil, which are vital nutrient for agricultural crops.

Low livestock productivity and high production cost. Climate change will affect livestock productivity directly by influencing the balance between heat dissipation and heat production and indirectly through its effect on the availability of feed and fodder.

Climate change is likely to cause the manifestation of vector and vector born diseases, where an increase in temperature and humidity will create ideal conditions for malaria, sleeping sickness and other infectious diseases that will directly affect the availability of human resources for the agriculture sector.

The impact of these adverse climate changes on agriculture is exacerbated in Africa by the lack of adaptation to strategies, which are increasingly limited due to the lack of institutional, economic and financial capacity to support such actions.

Africa’s vulnerability to climate change and its inability to adapt to these changes may be devastating to the agriculture sector, the main source of livelihood to the majority of the population.

The utmost concern should therefore be a better understanding of the potential impact of the current and projected climate changes on our agriculture and to identify ways and means to adapt and mitigate its detrimental impact.

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