Supporting farmers adapt to climate change through conservation agriculture in Regional Africa will reduce lost of food crops as a result of global warming

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Agriculture, forestry and other land use plays a central role for food security and sustainable development.

The most cost-effective mitigation options in forestry are afforestation, sustainable forest management and reducing deforestation, with large differences in their relative importance across regions. In agriculture, the most cost-effective mitigation options are cropland management, grazing land management and the restoration of organic soils.

Climate change could push more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030 primarily due to agricultural shocks and increased incidence of disease. Studies suggest that climate change could result in global crop yield losses as large as 5% in 2030 and 30% in 2080, even with adaptation such as changed agricultural practices and crops.

As water is the most crucial element for growing food, farming will need to adapt to changing rainfall patterns brought about as a consequence of climate change.

In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, where climate variability already limits agricultural production, 95% of food comes from rainfed farms. In some East African countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi and Tanzania, rainfall dropped by around 15% between 1979 and 2005, causing drastic losses in food production.

Not only is agriculture one of the main drivers of climate change, it is also its most significant victim.

Agriculture will be directly affected by all indications and consequences of climate change, such as droughts and floods, storms and tornados, rising sea levels, salinisation of groundwater, more frequent and extreme weather events, increasing species extinction and the spread of old and new diseases.

It is essential that strategies to adapt to climate change consider traditional knowledge and crops. Traditional crop varieties are cheaper, easier to access, more diverse and more resilient to climate pressures than modern hybrids.Although adaptation strategies need to differ according to the various world regions, there are still some promising basic principles.

As a rule of thumb, an increased level of diversification will reduce the vulnerability of the respective agricultural systems to extreme conditions and increase resilience. Monocultures are obviously more exposed and vulnerable to many of the described challenges than cultivation systems which still produce sufficient yields if one particular crop suffers losses or fails completely in one growing season

Heat extremes and changing precipitation patterns will have adverse effects on agricultural productivity, hydrological regimes and biodiversity. In Brazil, without additional adaptation, crop yields could decrease by up to 70% for soybean and up to 50% for wheat at 2°C warming by 2050.

Agriculture contributes approximately 50% to Africa’s total export value and 21% of its total GDP, but as an economic sector it is the most vulnerable and most exposed to climate extremes. It is projected that climate impacts on Namibia’s natural resources would cause annual losses of between one and six percent of GDP, of which livestock production, traditional agriculture and fishing will be hardest hit. This would equate to a combined loss of US$ 461 to 2,045 million per year by 2050.

Mixed crop–livestock systems are the backbone of African agriculture, providing food security and livelihood options for hundreds of millions of people. Much is known about the impacts of climate change on the crop enterprises in the mixed systems, and some, although less, on the livestock enterprises. The interactions between crops and livestock can be managed to contribute to environmentally sustainable intensification, diversification and risk management.

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