Welcome to Climate Change and Agriculture in Africa

Analysis of the impacts of climate change suggests that agro-ecological systems are the most vulnerable sectors. Agriculture in low latitude developing countries is expected to be especially vulnerable because climates of many of these countries are already too hot. Further warming is consequently expected to reduce crop productivity adversely. These effects are exacerbated by the fact that agriculture and agro-ecological systems are especially prominent in the economies of African countries and the systems tend to be less capital and technology intensive. Predictions of impacts across regions consequently suggest large changes in the agricultural systems of low latitude (mostly, developing) countries.

This website is devoted to providing information on the activities of the project: Climate, water and agriculture: Impacts and adaptation of agro-ecological systems in Africa. This project seeks to further understand the impact that climate has and may have on agricultural systems in Africa and what measures can be used to mitigate such effects.

The project is implemented by the Agriculture and Rural Development Program, the World Bank Institute and the Africa Region of the World Bank and executed by the Centre for Environmental Economics and Policy in Africa (CEEPA) of the University of Pretoria.

"Understanding and Adapting to Climate Change: What can the World Learn from Africa's Experience." Zaragoza, Spain, 13 - 16 December 2004. Workshop 3-04

"Technical training workshop on implementation of the Ricardian analysis." Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, 3 - 6 May 2004.

Workshop 2003: "Training workshop on quality control for country level and regional analyses and reporting." Cairo, Egypt, 10 - 13 November 2003

Workshop 2002: Launching and Training workshop on unified methodologies and data collection needs.

"Training Workshop on Crop Simulation and River Basin Hydrology Modelling. Accra, Ghana, 23 - 26 June 2003"

As at 13 November 2002, 84 Parties have signed and 97 Parties have ratified or acceded to the Kyoto Protocol. For current news on the Protocol visit:

Agriculture is undoubtedly the most important sector in the economies of most non-oil exporting African countries. It constitutes approximately 30% of Africa's GDP and contributes about 50% of the total export value, with 70% of the continent's population depending on the sector for their livelihood. Production is subsistence in nature with a high dependence on the rain. The debate on climate change and its impacts on agriculture is therefore very crucial to the very survival of the continent and its people. The continent is particularly susceptible to climate change because it includes some of the world's poorest nations.

The climate in Africa is predominantly tropical in nature, which is broadly classified into three main climatic zones: humid equatorial, dry, and humid temperate. Within these zones, altitude and other localized variables also produce distinctive regional climates. The climate also varies cyclically over periods of decades, centuries, and millennia as well as from year to year. Climate change, especially indicated by prolonged drought is one of the most serious climatic hazards affecting the agricultural sector of the continent. As most of the agriculture activities in African countries hinges on rain fed, any adverse changes in the climate would likely have a devastating effect on the sector in the region, and the livelihood of the majority of the population.

Though changes in the climate may affect the whole continent, its distribution may vary across the continent. Climate change in the already arid northern sub-region of the continent is expected to enhance desertification and bring a gradual decrease in forest cover. In the Sahara and Sahel sub-regions, rainfall is predicted to drop, resulting in soil degradation and an increasing number of dust storms. In northeast Africa, more intense dry periods and shorter wet seasons are expected to affect even huge river systems such as the Blue Nile, leading to serious water shortages and adverse consequences for the agriculture and forestry sectors throughout the region. East and Central Africa will also see its agricultural capacity decline. In West Africa, more frequent and longer dry periods are expected, again threatening crop failures. Coastal areas may also be affected by rising sea levels and intrusion of salt water into inland freshwater resources. Southern Africa also faces similar threats. The staple food for the region, maize, is particularly susceptible to drought. Wetlands of international importance and wildlife are also under threat from drought in Southern Africa. Climate change, therefore, is expected to worsen the food supply, hence, exacerbate the widespread poverty in the region.

Five main climate change related drivers: temperature, precipitation, sea level rise, atmospheric carbon dioxide content and incidence of extreme events, may affect the agriculture sector in the following ways:
  • Reduction in crop yields and agriculture productivity: There is a growing evidence that in the tropics and subtropics, where crops have reached their maximum tolerance, crop yields are likely to decrease due to an increase in the temperature.
  • Increased incidence of pest attacks: An increase in temperature is also likely to be conducive for a proliferation of pests that are detrimental to crop production.
  • Limit the availability of water: It is expected that the availability of water in most parts of Africa would decrease as a result of climate change. Particularly, there will be a severe down trend in the rainfall in Southern African countries and in the dry areas of countries around Mediterranean Sea.
  • Exacerbation of drought periods: An increase in temperature and a change in the climate throughout the continent are predicted to cause recurrent droughts in most of the region.
  • Reduction in soil fertility. An increase in temperature is likely to reduce soil moisture, moisture storage capacity and the quality of the soil, which are vital nutrient for agricultural crops.
  • Low livestock productivity and high production cost: Climate change will affect livestock productivity directly by influencing the balance between heat dissipation and heat production and indirectly through its effect on the availability of feed and fodder.
  • Availability of human resource: Climate change is likely to cause the manifestation of vector and vector born diseases, where an increase in temperature and humidity will create ideal conditions for malaria, sleeping sickness and other infectious diseases that will directly affect the availability of human resources for the agriculture sector.

The impact of these adverse climate changes on agriculture is exacerbated in Africa by the lack of adapting strategies, which are increasingly limited due to the lack of institutional, economic and financial capacity to support such actions.

Africa's vulnerability to climate change and its inability to adapt to these changes may be devastating to the agriculture sector, the main source of livelihood to the majority of the population. The utmost concern should therefore be a better understanding of the potential impact of the current and projected climate changes on African agriculture and to identify ways and means to adapt and mitigate its detrimental impact.

Relevant links about African agriculture
  1. Agricultural research on east and central Africa
  2. International African Agriculture and Natural Resource Management ICT Support Projects & Agencies
  3. Africa food and agriculture
  4. African agriculture related information and news
  5. Africa and Urban Agriculture

Relevant links on African Climate
  1. Climate description various regions of Africa
  2. Evidence of Climate change and its adverse impact on Africa
  3. Climate prediction center: information available for south Africa and north western Africa
  4. The climate description for each country of the world
  5. The Climate Network Africa Website

Relevant links and literature on climate change impacts on African agriculture
  1. Climate change and Africa
  2. IPCC Special Report on The Regional Impacts of Climate Change An Assessment of Vulnerability: Africa
  3. The impact of global warming on Africa
  4. Climate Change, Water and Agriculture in The Gambia and South Africa
  5. Global warming to produce famine and poverty in Africa
The GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT FACILITY (GEF) provides the bulk of funding (US$ 0.7 million) for this project.

Other donors providing partial funding to the project activities are:
THE FINNISH TRUST FUND (link to website)








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