Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Climate change to shrink southern Africa's agricultural production by half

IPS: Environmental researchers predict Southern Africa will be hit heavily by climate change over the next 70 years. Agricultural production is projected to be halved - a development that will threaten the livelihoods of farmers in a region where 70 percent of the population are smallholder farmers.

"We will be seriously affected by climate change in Southern Africa. Agriculture and biodiversity will experience a particularly negative impact," Dr Constansia Musvoto, researcher at South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), told members of the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) at the organisation’s policy conference in Durban on Apr. 15 and 16.

Temperatures will increase by up to six degrees Celsius, while rainfall will drop by as much as 40 percent in some parts of the region, Musvoto said. As a result, the region will experience more and longer droughts, increased crop failures and have less fields and pastures due to water shortages. In addition, natural disasters will be more intense, while pest outbreaks for both crops and livestock will become more frequent.

Musvoto also predicts that there will be more diseases in Southern Africa. "Due to rising temperatures, malaria will spread more widely, for example, which will negatively affect the availability of farm labour," she explained.

…Chilonda believes low yields are caused by inadequate management of water and land resources. At the same time, African farmers’ earnings are down due to lack of access to agricultural markets and technology. "There is not enough regional agricultural research that could help farmers deal with climate change," he added….

Sunrise in Botswana, shot by Matt-80, Wikimedia Commons, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

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