African governments need to take immediate action to help poor farmers adapt to the climate change. Rising temperatures are destroying vital food supplies in Africa, said Julian Ramirez-Villegas of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Without action, it will be impossible to grow several staple food crops in sub-Saharan Africa.
Farmers need to replace crops
Climate change will make unsuitable vast swathes of areas growing crops like maize, beans and bananas. Findings of the study were published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. Researchers studied the impact of global warming on nine crops that account for more than 50% of Africa’s food production. They found that up to 60% of areas producing beans and up to 30% areas producing bananas and maize could become unviable in a few decades.
These projections are based on moderate to extreme climate change scenarios where carbon emissions continue rising unabated. Lead author Julian Ramirez-Villegas said the study shows where and when interventions need to be made. Farmers need to replace crops with heat- and drought-resistant millet or sorghum to prevent food shortages.
African countries have less than 10 years to battle climate change
Scientists warned that up to 40% of maize-growing areas will require “transformation,” which may include changing the type of crop grown or abandoning crop farming altogether. The currently available solutions such as breeding improved crops may take more than 15 years to complete. But the need to adapt to climate change is already urgent in Niger, Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and other countries.
Banana-growing areas in West Africa must change their land use within 10 years because these areas will become unsuitable for bananas by 2025. All the bean-growing regions in South Africa, Angola, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe need to undergo transformation by 2050. Maize-growing areas also have less than ten years left under the most extreme scenarios. The governments need to begin with short-term actions such as improving weather information services and irrigation for farmers. They also need to develop new varieties of beans and maize that can better withstand heat and drought.