Impacts of climate change on agriculture: What, when, where and how?

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One of the key messages emerging out of the recent IPCC reports is that the climate change is real, happening and will continue to happen for the foreseeable future. The report also estimates with high confidence that the negative impacts on agriculture outweigh the positives which makes adaptation an urgent and pressing challenge. However, adaptation planning requires accurate information about where, when and how the impacts are going to be felt and who will be more vulnerable. Eastern Africa is considered as one of the most vulnerable regions in the world due to its high dependence on agriculture for subsistence, employment and income. Generally the region experiences prolonged and highly destructive droughts covering large areas at least once every decade and more localized events more frequently. The negative impacts of climate are not limited to the years with extreme climatic conditions. Even with normal rainfall, the countries in the region do not produce enough food to meet their needs. Overlaid on this challenging scenario is the dominance of semi-arid to arid climatic conditions which are marginal for crop production, degraded soils, extreme poverty and lack of infrastructure which make the countries in the region highly vulnerable to current and future changes in climate. There is a rapidly growing literature on vulnerability and adaptation to increased climatic variability and change but most of these assessments are based on statistical and empirical models that fail to account the full range of complex interactions and their effects on agricultural systems. For developing and implementing adaptation programs, more detailed information about how the components of the prevailing farming system such as which crops and varieties are more vulnerable and which management practices are unviable under the predicted climates is needed. However, several problems such as non-availability of downscaled local level climate change projections, lack of information on how the projected changes impact agricultural systems and scarcity of information on how these changes on production and productivity of agriculture translate into economic impacts including food security at household and national levels are constraining such an assessment.



Climate change, climate vulnerability, agriculture, agriculture systems, East Africa, Tanzania, Kenya