, Volume 83, Issue 3, pp 287-300
Date: 15 Mar 2007

Sustaining agricultural production and food security in Southern Africa: an improved role for climate prediction?

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Abstract

Livelihoods and household food security in the Southern African region can be extremely vulnerable to the negative effects of climate stress as shown by the 2002–2004 ‘complex emergency.’ Climate prediction may prove a valuable resource in mitigating these effects. If climate prediction is applied successfully, it may be able to help guide responses in populations at risk to reduce vulnerability to climate stress. The study presented here seeks to understand what would constitute an improved role for climate prediction in contributing to sustaining agricultural production and food security in Southern Africa. Investigation undertaken during the 2002/2003 rainy season under regional conditions of elevated disaster risk shows, however, that a number of weaknesses and gaps persistently characterize climate information systems in the Southern African region, and constrain such systems’ ability to benefit key sectors, particularly agriculture. The stakeholder identification of such gaps forms the basis for distilling concrete recommendations to improve process and organizational efficiency. Such recommendations, while developmental, should better enable institutions and stakeholders involved in climate prediction to fulfill their potential in supporting development of successful adaptation strategies in populations and sectors at risk.