Friday, December 23, 2011

Pairing up farmers with future climate twins

Jerome Bossuet with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, in AlertNet: As climate change begins to have noticeable impacts, farmers will have to adapt their practices progressively. They will need to use the most appropriate technologies and farm management methods to alleviate the effects of a predicted 3-degree Celsius temperature rise. But how can they imagine what their situation will be in 2050?

A project called CALESA (Climate Analogue Locations in Eastern and Southern Africa) aims to help them find some answers by testing different agricultural adaptation strategies at four pairs of “twinned” pilot sites in Kenya and Zimbabwe.

In each country, one location with a dry climate has been selected and one with a wetter climate. These have been paired with “analogue” sites in the same country, which have similar rainfall characteristics but a warmer average temperature, allowing comparative research to be carried out, first involving crops and then bringing in local communities.

Agriculture experts forecast that global agricultural production will have to increase by 70 percent, and should double in developing countries in order to feed the 9 billion people predicted to be on the planet in 2050. In sub-Saharan Africa in particular, rain-fed smallholder agriculture will remain as vital as it is today, continuing to provide nearly 90 percent of staple food production.

The households living on such farms are among the world’s poorest and most vulnerable rural people, and they are already struggling to cope with shifting climate and rainfall patterns. The challenge to boost their harvests is a tough one, given that climate change will further complicate their livelihoods. In some sub-Saharan African countries, crop yields are predicted to fall by 50 percent by 2050.

The uniqueness of the “analogue locations” concept is that it doesn’t just rely on modeling, but takes a more concrete and practical approach by identifying the best adaptation strategies with communities themselves. If farmers can visit their “future climate” – in some cases less than 100 kilometres away - they can then visualise and start planning for longer-term climate patterns and their accompanying risks....

Image from Voice of America 2005 broadcast on a drought in Africa

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