Climate Change and Crop Diversification

By: NARYAN BRANCH


posted on: August 17th, 2016

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239 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were undernourished in 2010. This figure is expected to rise in future because of climate change.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND FARMING

Global temperatures are rising and this can impact on the amount of crops that can be produced in Africa. It is expected that Africa will get drier in future and there will be worse drought periods and flash flooding events. As a result, farmers need to find solutions to help them be able to make enough crops for them to consume or even sell. One possible solution is crop diversification.

CROP DIVERSIFICATION

‘Crop Diversification’ means that farmers grow many different types of crops instead of just one type. This is particularly important in case the weather is particularly bad in growing or harvest season. For example, droughts in Ethiopia in the 1980s led to widespread famine and death because crops could not survive. Having said this, if many different types of crops were grown by individual farmers (like millet, maize, and rice), then the chances of at least one crop surviving is higher. This means that farmers will always produce some crops, even if the weather is bad.

Also, if the climate is good, farmers can grow many different crops and they can sell them to lots of buyers. This can mean that incomes for farmers will be higher. In fact, the Kenyan government encourage farmers to diversify crop production and offers land to farmers so that they can do this. Clearly this is a solution which many people see as having many advantages.

ISSUES

Crop diversification is not always easy to do because farmers need a lot of land to do it. In Africa, where the population is growing quickly, there is less space for farming as people need places to live and cities grow. Also, the climate is getting drier so desert regions are slowly expanding – which means there is less fertile land for crops to grow in regions such as Chad, Niger, and Mali.

OTHER SOLUTIONS

As well as growing different types of crops, scientists are now experimenting with GM crops. These are ‘genetically modified’ crops which means that genes from one plant can be transferred to another to help it grow. For example, banana trees in Uganda have been genetically modified which makes them survive better when there is a long drought period. This method has proven to be successful in many countries and has much promise for the future. In general, climate change will mean that less crops can be grown. However, by using crop diversification and GM crops, farmers in Africa should be able to cope with future challenges.

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