In sub-Saharan Africa, a comprehensive approach to food, farming and resources could increase crop production by more than 500% in some countries in the region, according to new research by more than 200 experts.
Malawi’s crucial maize yields could fall by a fifth by 2050 without action, but with a coordinated approach to technology, agriculture, infrastructure and food security, its production could increase by more than 700%.
Tanzania had the potential for a 17-fold increase in crop production.
There is no single technological fix but significant improvements could be achieved with new approaches, based on modelling done by the network of researchers in Malawi, Tanzania, South Africa and Zambia.
Sithembile Mwamakamba, director of policy research and analysis at the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network, a pan-African organisation explained, “If urgent action is not taken to make agriculture in the region more resilient to climate impacts, our food systems will definitely fail us and push our rural communities to the edge.”
Mwamakamba said “climate smart” policies need to cut across sectors to be effective, recognising that the climate crisis can affect agriculture, health, nutrition and security. The researchers produced a tool that quantified crop yields, land and water use as well as greenhouse gas emissions and nutrition to model the effects of the changing climate and how policies could have an impact.
There had been successful trials of agricultural methods such as terracing, said researchers, as a way to improve soil health and water availability. The report added that developing new crop varieties were crucial to cope with extreme temperatures and rainfall. It also warned that policies developed in isolation could lead to conflicts. For example, the expansion of agricultural land to increase production could cause tensions over land and water usage.