IJCRR - Vol 08 Issue 02, January, 2016
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CLIMATE CHANGE AND AGRICULTURE NEXUS IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: THE AGONIZING REALITY FOR SMALLHOLDER FARMERS
Author: George Kanyama Phiiri, Anthony Egeru, Adipala Ekwamu
Abstract:Climate change is one of the potent challenges facing smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa in the recent past owing to the pattern and magnitude with which it presents the extreme events such as floods and drought. This review finds a general consensus that climate change is already happening in the region and the projections in the early, mid and end century all point to a much warmer future with highly variable rainfall across the region. These patterns in climate parameters is expected to trigger a negative trend in agricultural production for most food and cash crops in SSA. However, a few locations particularly the highland locations over eastern Africa will be expected to become more suitable for the production of some cereals such as maize leading to increased production. Overall, at present and in the future unless strategic interventions are judiciously implemented smallholder farmers in SSA produce below the optimal levels with considerable yield gaps in nearly all the cereals, legumes and tubers grown. Efforts to unlock the potential of smallholder farmers under the current and projected climate change situation ought to focus on strategic and systemic implementation of; options that yield multiple benefits such as climate smart agriculture, investing in capacity building at both technical and farmer level, creating multiple opportunities for investment capital including availing smallholders with credit as well as mobilizing private financing. Further, investing at the development of functional early and early warning systems, investing in agricultural value chains through a strategic focus on agribusinesses and gaining and strengthening political commitment through a focus on policy and governance in agricultural frameworks and processes. Finally, a no-one fit for all paradigm ought to be upheld at all time while dealing with smallholder farmers in SSA owing to the dynamic and complex farming systems under which they operate.
Keywords: Adaptation, Capacity, Institutions, Resilience, RUFORUM, Yield gap
Sub-Saharan Africa is vulnerable to climate change for a couple of facts inherent in the region; high natural resource and agricultural dependence; poverty (58.9% living under multi-dimensional poverty (Alkire and Housseini, 2014); inadequate and ailing infrastructure; structural challenges at policy level (Ondige et al., 2013) and limited access and use of relevant and reliable agricultural inputs (Ringler et al., 2010). Understandablythe interaction of the multiple stresses create a higher susceptibility of the region to climate variability and change as well as constraining the region’s adaptive capacity (Connolly-Boutin and Smit, 2015). The impact of climate change on agriculture; food and livelihoods in SSA can no longer be under estimated.
This because there is a general agreement in the scientific community that temperatures have increased, and will further increase in the near term, mid and end century (O’Loughlin et al., 2014; Egeru et al., 2014). The SSA temperatures are expected to increase above the global average (Ringer et al., 2010) with varied performance in rainfall and seasons across the region (Shiferaw et al., 2014). For example, it is expected that rainfall will decrease in northern and southern Africa, increase over Ethiopian and East Africa highlands with increased frequency extreme events over the low lands (IPCC, 2007; Conway, 2009; Ringler et al., 2010). Temperature is particularly projected will increase leading to a level above tolerance range for most of the current crop varieties, cultivars and livestock species (Afenyo, 2015).
The debilitating impacts climate variability and change confers are wide ranging from perceived trigger of conflict (O’Loughlin et al., 2014) to production constraint among smallholder farmers in the region; these have become critical to decipher. Alterations in rainfall intensity (Songok et al., 2011), prevalence of extreme weather events including floods and droughts (Niang et al., 2014; Barasa et al., 2014; Egeru, 2014), spatial and temporal alterations is disease vectors and transmissions including trans-boundary livestock diseases (Chen et al., 2006), increased prevalence of heat events as well as escalation of desertification across the African continent (Reich et al., 2001) are all anticipated.
With a couple of these impacts occurring from time to time, smallholder farmers in Africa are already facing a series of robust negative impacts of climate variability and change on agriculture including among others; losses in crop and livestock productivity; leading to loss of major livelihood defenses and a cyclic poverty (AGRA, 2014). Further, climate projections for most of sub-Saharan Africa reveal potential negative impacts including among others; disruptions in the length of the growing season, constrictions in the livestock-crop suitable locations, potential decline in crop and other agricultural yields with some countries expected to experience up to 50% declines (Boko et al., 2007; Ringler et al., 2010), and changes in agro-biodiversity (Niang et al., 2014). Climate change is also expected to worsen the nutrition challenge in Africa with an additional 132 million people becoming undernourished by 2050 (AGRA, 2014).
Further, it’s been shown that an increase by 1.2 to 1.9 will make more of the continent’s population undernourished by 25% to 95% (central Africa +25%, East Africa +50%, Southern Africa +85% and West Africa +95%) (Munang and Andrews, 2014). Production risks and costs associated with climate change are similarly unceasing. A focused analysis of these risks and costs is pivotal in prioritizing effective investments that will assist adaptation to the espoused changes. Schlenker and Lobell (2010) have showed that changes in SSA's mean aggregate production for maize, sorghum, millet, groundnut, and cassava were likely to be -22, -17,-18, and -8% respectively. Such precise information is vital for decision making on allocation of scarce resources for adaptation relative to many other developmental needs.
However, precise information on climate change is particularly deficient in sub-Saharan Africa, more so, that which is relevant and applicable to smallholder farmers. Thus, farmer decisions often than not are based on past experiences yet the changes particularly occurring are laced with extreme whether that challenge the conventional practices of smallholder farmers. By all indications, climate change is seen as a real potent threat on Africa. All hope is not lost, because even amidst climate change Africa still has potential to feed itself but this requires getting the right mix of the agricultural value chain ‘cocktail’ in Africa right (Munang and Andrews, 2014).
Smallholder farmers and agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa
Smallholder farmers are a vital artery of food security in subSaharan Africa. Over 80% of the farms in SSA are under smallholder ownership (about 50 million farms) and management and about 70% of whom are female farmers (AGRA, 2014; Schaffnit-Chatterjee, 2014).These farms however consist of small parcels and patches of land with constrained input resources. Subsequently, Africa’s smallholder farmers are often described as ‘resource poor’ (Mignouna et al., 2008). Whereas sub-Saharan Africa is generally ‘perceived’ to have fertile soils, the farming practices escalate the degradation of these soils through nutrient mining activities (Drechsel et al., 2001). Further, production gaps abound; the vertical yield is constrained.
Compared to other regions in world; sub-Saharan Africa's yield per hectare far lags behind in nearly every crop.For example, potatoes production is generally below 10 t/ha for most countries in eastern and central Africa. Even those that are above, their tuber yield riddles with inter-annual variability with an unceasing variability into 2020 (Figure 1 and 2). Further, the scenario from the cereal production is not any better; yields have generally remained stagnated at less than 25% of the potentially attainable yields with many parts of the region merely attaining 1.5 tha but marginal; Figure 3) compared to the potential that is greater than 5 t/ha (AGRA, 2013; Mutegi and Zingore, 2014).
The exception in the trap of stagnated growth in production is southern Africa that experienced a more than 350% increase in yields over a 50 year period (Ward et al., 2014). Thus, it is apparent that SSA is the only region that has failed to improve agricultural productivityfor a couple of reasons that are either directly or indirectly orchestrated including among others; under-investment, poor infrastructure, insecure land tenure, unfavourable price policies and weak institutions (Schaffnit-Chatterjee, 2014).
Smallholder agriculture in the face of climate change in sub-Saharan Africa
Many parts of sub-Saharan Africa are predisposed to climate variabilities and extreme events such as drought with devastating impacts. Regional analysis of extreme climate events particularly drought show an increased presence over the last 20 years with a shortened return period of eastern Africa(Williams and Funk, 2011; Shiferaw et al., 2014). Climate change is certainly making the prevalence of these extreme events over Africa more pronounced (Schmidhuber and Tubiello, 2007; Kahare, 2014). The impacts on crops will be devastating particularly that most of the crops in Africa are already grown close to their limits of thermal tolerance (Conway, 2009). It is also anticipated that a 10-40% risk of failed seasons during major cropping calendar is experience in SSA, climate change will likely make this situation worse (Figure 4;Shiferaw et al., 2014).
It is also expected that by 2025 the per capita water availability will be worsening with an increased water scarcity, stress and vulnerability. By the end of the century, grain crops (that constitute the major staples) will be most affected with up to 72% decline in wheat yields and up to 45% yield reductions in maize, rice and soybean (Figure 5; Adhikar et al., 2015). Smallholder farmers in SSA are also heavily reliant on autonomous adaptation (a reaction of farmers in response to a climate change event (Calzadilla et al., 2013).
A high certainty pertains that climate change, particularly increased temperatures, will negatively affect crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa (Ward et al., 2014). And, had temperatures to stay to the pre-1960 period, only then would a 32% yield gap increase have been possibly observed between SSA and other developing countries (Barrios et al., 2008).In Uganda, coffee production is being affected with further projections showing that the coffee production zones will significantly shrink (Nandozi et al., 2012). Overall, the damage of climate change will remain negative for most crops in SSA (Schlenker and Lobell, 2010).
However, all hope is not lost, some regions in SSA are projected will experience improved agricultural production. Calzadilla et al. (2013) show that in some areas of SSA agricultural production will increase by 25 per cent.This will be associated with expected increase in rainfall in some parts of eastern Africa including the Horn of Africa and central Africa (Collier et al., 2008). Further, within the region there are some islands of potential gains in production. For example maize yield is expected to increase in Kenya and Rwanda in 2030 and 2050 by 15% and 11% in 2030 and 18% and 15% by 2050 respectively.
The gains in Rwanda and Kenya are expected to arise from the beneficial effects of temperature increases that bring growing season temperatures close to optimum in the temperate/tropical highlands (Adhikar et al, 2015). Some 17 GCMs from the Comprehensive Climate Change Scenarios also show that millet will experience a slight increase e (<5%) in SSA by 2050 (Ringler et al., 2010). Smallholder farmers have the opportunity to harness the potential gains arising but in the overall, the focus ought to be exerted on facilitating their capacity to adapt to the probable certainty of uncertain future. Particularly, ensuring the smallholder farmers are in better position to adjust to the nonlinear responses that abound to arise in the internal dynamics of the climate system.
The limitations with climate change and smallholder agriculture in SSA pertains to the manner of interactive and causative studies undertaken. For example, most climate change projections are conducted on a medium to long term basis (10, 20, 30, 60, 80 years). Yet many decisions other than climate that often influences smallholder agricultural production in the region do not focus at this time length. Thus, information is available at ‘an unavailable proportions’; particularly to the political elite that influence various activities in their respective countries. This indicates that there remains a considerable challenge to addressing the climate change downscaling and modeling that is relevant at small geographic level (Ifejika Speranza, 2010).
Obviously this will require commendable financial, infrastructural and human resources investment; including building a critical mass of technical personnel. Further, the challenges regarding the understanding of climate change impact on smallholder farmers relates to three inter-related conditions; firstly, there is a lack of standardized definitions of the smallholder farming system, and therefore of standard data above the national level in difficult. Secondly, the intrinsic characteristics of the smallholder systems, particularly their complexity, their location-specificity, and their integration of agricultural and nonagricultural livelihood strategies is complex; and thirdly, they are vulnerable to a range of climate-related and other stressors (Morton, 2007).
Unlocking the potential of smallholder farmers in SSA amidst climate variability and change Focusing at helping smallholder farmers grow is not an option; because over 90% of all farms in SSA are cultivated and managed by smallholder farmersand account for 80% agricultural production and this pattern is expected to stay into the mid-term of this century. Secondly smallholder farmers and their farms have potential to be efficient interms of total factor productivity (Molua et al., 2010;Calzadilla et al., 2013;Schaffnit-Chatterjee, 2014). Further, smallholder farmers in SSA are not devoid of ingenuity in tackling climate change within their midst. Several communities have had deliberate (aimed at reducing overall vulnerability to climate shocks-adaptive strategies) and unintended (often to manage their ex-post impacts-coping strategies) actions towards building resilience through stimulating the existing ecosystems and available natural resource bases (Morton, 2007; Munang and Andrews, 2014; Afenyo, 2005). However, the pattern of the extreme events is at the center of undermining their ability, resources, options and therefore capacity to adapt (Afenya, 2015). The on-going discourse on climate variability and change adaptation and mitigation in agriculture points to four core challenges that relate to producing: (i) more food, (ii) more efficiently and sustainably, (iii) under more uncertain production conditions, and (iv)with reductions in GHG emissions (Villanueva and Rocio, 2011).
In that case, unlocking the potential of smallholder farmers amidst climate change is complex, requiring; consideration of critical components including among others: soil health, water conservation, livelihood diversification, institutional capacity at various levels; national and local levels that is in position to champion the processes inherent in adaptation (Adhikar et al., 2015). It is also emerging that a greater attention to the understanding, articulating and where it is inevitable providing rebuttal to the paradigms such as the market-led model that is creating an altered marginalization of smallholder farmers in subSaharan Africa (Rajaonarison, 2014).
Several options have been rallied for smallholder farmers to adopt. One of such options with ‘hyped’ opportunities is climate smart agriculture (CSA) albeit not utterly new but a rebrand of sustainable land management (SLM). In its present form and discourse; CSA is perceived to offer the best bet option to addressing the four core challenges of climate change adaptation and mitigation in agriculture. This is because CSA represents a set of strategies that can help address the challenges of meeting the growing demand for food, fibre and fuel, despite the changing climate and fewer opportunities for agricultural expansion on additional land through increasing resilience to weather extremes, adapting to climate change and decreasing agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming (Steenwerth et al., 2014).
However, for equity issues; the CSA in its broad sense is controversial among smallholder farmers. There are other complex facets that hinder uptake of the CSA as an innovation system but also as a host of strategies that it transmits; particularly because often than not it tends to challenge farmers’ decisions through altering the risks and uncertainty and incorporating new information into their traditional knowledge-processing systems. Overall, because CSA assures the triple benefits and particularly that it provides for opportunities for context-specific driven agro-ecological approaches and solutions; it is promising options for unlocking smallholder farmers’ potential in SSA.
Investing in agricultural value chains through a focus on agribusiness; shifting from focusing on SSA as a development challenge to a business opportunity and financing agriculture and agribusinesses in the region guarantees potential for unlocking smallholder farmers amidst climate change challenge (Schaffnit-Chatterjee, 2014). Financing agriculture facilitates smallholder farmers to take advantage on several fronts; farmers are able to access information tools and technologies that help build their resilience to climate change (IFAD, 2012). It also offers smallholder farmers with opportunities to enhance resource use efficiency that also increases production in the face of climate change as well as protecting the environment (Ifejika Speranza, 2010). Whereas agricultural financing is a conduit to unlock the potential of smallholder farmers, the real focus of this financing and investment ought to increase the proportion of climate finance going into adaptation, and to secure a flow of resources to locations and populations where adaptation needs are greatest.
Further, there is need to strengthen mobilizing private financing through creative innovative finance and insurance products that improve both risk and management and access to capital for adaptation actions, among the smallholder farmers(Ayemaw, 2014). It is only when agricultural financing is able to reach the smallholder farmers; in nonconstraining yet constructive pathways that agricultural investment and financing will provide the unlocking potentials and will the smallholders be in position to take advantage of these opportunities to strengthen their adaptive capacity and build resilience. Whereas there has been a general perception that SSA has fertile soils; smallholder farmers struggle with low soil fertility.For example, approximately 40% of the soils in SSA have low nutrient capital reserves (<10% weatherable minerals), 25% suffer from aluminum toxicity while 18% have a high leaching potential (Sanchez et al., 2003). Improving soil health through approaches such as integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) technologies offers opportunities for smallholder farmers to adapt to and mitigate climate change while simultaneously unearthing their potential in terms of increased productivity, resilient agro-ecological systems and strengthened livelihoods.
ISFM provides a mechanism to enhance crop productivity whilst maximizing the agronomic efficiency of the applied inputs; it thus contributes to sustainable intensification which is a necessary ingredient to addressing rural poverty and natural resource degradation in SSA (Vanlauwe et al., 2015). There are initiatives within the region to address the soil fertility challenge; these initiatives focus on a broad spectrum of concerns including; (i) improving soil fertility by maximizing biological nitrogen fixation (N2Africa); ii) create content for extension; iii) increasing smallholder farmers’ access to locally appropriate fertilizers; iv) creating conditions for smallholder farmers to be able to afford fertilizer use by creating market access, credit and finance access, and v) assistance to farmer organizations and advocacy for national policies that are favourable to smallholder farmers (Dhamankar et al., 2014).It is also important to note that effective solutions that will be of help to smallholder farmers under the current state of climate change should be able to support resilient systems and must cut across agricultural, environmental and socioeconomic objectives (Tully et al., 2015). Supporting smallholder farmers in hotspot locations in SSA requires considerable investment in agricultural research, to develop new varieties of crops, identify alternative crops that are acceptable to the farmers and their families, and/or develop new farming techniques for the area that will help farmers to continue to grow their current crops(Thomas and Rosegrant, 2015).
However, investment in agricultural research in SSA is not possible without significant investment in capacity building of next generation of scientists in Africa. Evidence from a survey conducted on behalf of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) revealed severely constrained research capacity in the National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARIs) due to limited number of PhD level staff to design and engage in quality research (Kibwika, 2013). Nonetheless, there are efforts in the region to bolster the research capacity through training; the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) in the last 11 years has coordinated and supported the training of 1373 MScs and 315 PhDs in SSA.Capacity development under RUFORUM has not only focused at developing technical capacity but also that of smallholder farmers through innovative programmes such as the Community Action Research Programme (CARP) (Egeru et al., 2015).
These are illustrative milestones within the region in building technical capacity that need further support for escalation.Important in this context, is the strengthening of the knowledge management systems; not just investment is research but assurance of the timely, intelligible and communicable knowledge to and among farmers is very profound in ensuring that farmers are able to make timely, informed decisions as well as press for accountabilityfrom the various power brokers and policy leaders. It is generally noted that capacity development provides opportunity to expand the coping range and strengthen the capacity of a system to adapt to climate change, including variability (Masters and Duff, 2011). The potency of climate change among smallholder farmers arises from its ability to disarm the traditional calendars including the predictions made by the communities. Thus, investing in early warning and early warning systems is pivotal to facilitating adaptation to climate change and exploiting its potential benefits.
Early warning is the provision of timely and effective information, through identified institutions, that allows individuals exposed to a hazard to take action to avoid and/or reduce their risk and prepare for effective response. On the other hand, early warning systems include a chain of concerns among others: the understanding and mapping the hazard; monitoring and forecasting impending events; processing and disseminating understandable warnings to political authorities and the population, and undertaking appropriate and timely actions in response to the warnings (Humanitarian and Development Network, 2010). As alluded previously, over 70% of crop production is SSA comes from vulnerable rainfed smallholder farmers; most of whom operate in fragile environments; ecologically, geographically and economically (ISDR, 2008).
Smallholder farmers in this category would benefit from predictions, particularly those focused on extreme events such as drought. Further, predictions need not to happen for the sake; but these need to focus at the environment of concern; in this case providing smallholders with customized forecast information that can reliably inform them about the onset, cessation and intra-seasonal variations in order to reach decisions such as what, when and how to plant/harvest will be a step in the right direction (Masinde and Bagula, 2011). Political commitment through policy and governance in agricultural policy frameworks and processes that support climate change adaptation is central to smallholders in the current and future state. Political support is a fundamental resource in adaptation efforts (Kabat et al., 2012). Adaptation policies that underscore that climate change is just one stress in a complex environment cocktail offer a much better opportunity to smallholder farmers and decision makers to undertake systems thinking and solution search(Ziervogel et al., 2006).
Further, because adaptation is highly local, its effectiveness depends on local and extra-local institutions through which incentives for individual and collective action are structured. Institutional arrangements that define the governance processes also structure risks and sensitivity to climate hazards, facilitate and/or impede individual and collective responses, and shape the outcomes of such responses (Agrawal, 2010).
A thorough understanding of how these function in relation to climate and associated impacts is central to developing interventions that can influence the adaptive capacity and adaptation practices of smallholder farmers. In addressing smallholder farmer’s adaptation needs; politically sensitive questions of responsibility and equity often arise at various levels (Burton et al., 2006); wading these issues to the sidelines will be committing strategic suicide as well as relegating smallholders to further vulnerability position.
CONCLUSION This review set out to explore the linkage between smallholder farmers and climate change in SSA as well as to exposition what potential options exist for unlocking the potential of smallholder farmers under a climate change situation. Smallholders are and will in the foreseeable future continue in the agricultural production and therefore in the food security equation in SSA. However, smallholder farmer’s production is still below the optimal capacity and climate change constitutes a major threat that will further weaken their production potential.
There is overly a general agreement that the climate of SSA Africa will change with temperatures expected to rise, rainfall seasonality (inter and intra) expected to change and extreme events including drought and floods becoming prevalent. It therefore remains that smallholder farmers in SSA require urgent action to tackle climate change various levels. Investments that have potential to unlock smallholder farmers capacity under climate change situation include: investing in approaches and options with multiple benefits such as climate smart agriculture, investing in information and information systems including early warning and early warning systems, capacity building of smallholders and other actors involved in agriculture, availing financial resources for investment, strengthening institutions at various levels, and investing in technologies and invest in technical and structural capacities. Finally, we are cautious of the fact that ‘no-one fit for all’ approach can be adopted in the endeavor to unlock the potential of smallholder farmers in SSA because of the dynamic and complex farming systems under which the smallholders operate.
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