Knowledge Sharing for Climate Change Adaption

Resource for Theme 'Agriculture, fisheries and food security'

Review of research and policies for climate change adaptation in the health sector in West Africa


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Filename: resources/934/fac_working_paper_090_french_print-version.pdf


Date of publication: 2015-03-30

Associated Organization: Enda, CORAF, Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute

Themes: Agriculture, fisheries and food security

Regions: Africa, West Africa




The agricultural sector in Africa is very vulnerable to climate change and there is need for strong support to research on adaptation to climate change. A desk study on the synthesis of research and policy on climate change in the agricultural sector in West Africa was undertaken as part of the activities of a platform for exchange between researchers and policymakers for adaptation to climate change (AfricaInteract), a project funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and coordinated by the Council for Agricultural Research and Development in West and Central Africa (CORAF/WECARD). The objective of the review is to enhance the knowledge base and support research-based policy formulation for climate change adaptation in the smallholder agricultural sector (crops, livestock, pastoral systems and fisheries) in West Africa. Peer reviewed journal papers, peer reviewed reports of CGIAR centres and international organisations, papers published in conference proceedings and consultancy reports were studied. Materials published from 1995 to 2013 were used for the report.

Even though recent research indicates that global increases in surface temperature may not be as severe as previously predicted, there is scientific evidence of climate change and impacts on agriculture. Furthermore, farmers in the region are increasingly becoming aware of the negative effects of climate change and variability as well as the associated extreme events on their production systems and livelihoods. The impact of climate change is moderated by factors such as access to land, inputs, credit and markets. General Circulation Models are being used to describe scenarios in the future that could result from climate change. While there is consistency between the models in predicting increases in temperatures of about 2C between 2000 and 2050, predictions for rainfall are less consistent.

Detrimental effects in all sectors, as measured by several parameters, are indicated if adaptation measures are not adopted. Decline in yields of 5-25 percent between 2000 and 2050 for rainfed crops can occur. Crop revenues are projected to drop by 17-32 percent by 2100. For livestock, climate change is likely to have serious impacts in terms of changes in land use; reduced availability of water; changes in productivity of forage, plant species composition and quality; and severity and distribution of animal diseases. Concerning fisheries, the likely impacts – especially in the coastal zone of West Africa where marine fisheries is a major economic activity – are increased floods, death of fish and salinisation of fresh waters. A decline of 21 percent in annual landed value, a 50 percent drop in fisheries related jobs and annual losses of $311 million by 2050 is predicted for West Africa. However, rising sea level also creates opportunities for aquaculture, for which production is under greater human control.

The length of growing period (LGP) for most crops is expected to drop below 90 days in some parts of West Africa. Declining LGP will negatively impact even drought-tolerant crops such as millet as well as water resources, forages and pastures, and therefore the productivity and livelihoods of smallholders in the crops, livestock, pastoral and fisheries sectors of agriculture. Without adaptation, gross domestic product (GDP) in West Africa is projected to decline by two to four percent by 2100.

Several forms of adaptation by smallholders have been documented including adoption of technological practices, on- and off-farm diversification, mobility of pastoralists and use of weather forecasts. Barriers to adaptation include low economic capacity, poor infrastructure and institutions, socio-cultural perspectives, conflicts between interested parties and poor knowledge dissemination pathways. Gender sensitivity is increasingly being incorporated into technology development, implementation and policy. Several gaps or deficiencies in research approach, research output and policy formulation are outlined, such as inadequate decision support tools, limited use of participatory approaches and inadequate knowledge on adaptation strategies, including poorly developed index based insurance and weather forecasting. There is little knowledge on the link between climate change and trade or on adaptation to future climates. There is also poor understanding of policy processes and political factors influencing priorities and affecting adaptation.

At the regional and national levels, agricultural development policy documents indicate that considerations of climate change issues (no matter how brief) are most of the time mentioned in the plans, while the impact of climate change on the agricultural sector and adaptation are given consideration in climate adaptation policy documents. There is little to no mainstreaming of climate change policy into agricultural development policies. Key barriers to the uptake of research for policy formulation are limited or no involvement of policymakers in the research process, delays in reports reaching policymakers, ineffective forms of communicating research results, short term perspectives of politicians and linear research-policy linkage. Barriers to implementation of policy include weak institutions, lack of political will and inadequate funding.

A wide range of stakeholders are operating in the region. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is providing leadership in formulating policy, aligned to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture

Development Programme (CAADP), at the regional level on adaptation to climate change. CORAF/WECARD,

the African Centre of Meteorological Application for Development (ACMAD) and the Agro-Hydro-Meteorology (AGRHYMET) Regional Centre work in concert with ECOWAS. The Basin Authorities have crucial roles in the mangement of transboundary waters. National governments and national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) in each of the 15 ECOWAS states are key players. The NARES work in partnership with the CGIAR Centres, which are better capacitated to lead strategic research on climate smart agriculture. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Environnement et Développement du Tiers-Monde (ENDA-TM), World Vision and CARE are well placed to do important work at the grassroots level. IDRC, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Germany’s Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) all play important roles as determined by their mandates, missions and strengths.

Good governance, sound macroeconomic policies and access to credit and markets are required for successful adaptation to climate change, as well as training and provision of extension services to farmers. Learning from success stories and on-farm testing of best bets to fit well into the biophysical and socioeconomic circumstances of smallholders is required. Climate-smart agriculture involving complementary adaptation and mitigation practices should be promoted. Stakeholders becoming familiar with participatory approaches in research and development and mainstreaming of adaptation to climate change into new projects on food security are opportunities worth embracing. Research findings should be made use of in developing agricultural sector policies through better use of informal dialogue; early involvement of policymakers, journalists and farmer associations; and joint stakeholder monitoring and evaluation of adaptation projects. Policies on climate adaptation should be gender sensitive and flexible to allow for continuing adjustments and improvements with a focus on strengthening adaptive capacity of farmers. There is need for substantial funding by governments and donors of adaptation projects in the agricultural sector and institutions dealing with adaptation to climate change.




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