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Climate change and variability in Sub-Saharan Africa: a review of current and future trends and impacts on agriculture and food security

Abstract

Sub-Saharan Africa has been portrayed as the most vulnerable region to the impacts of global climate change because of its reliance on agriculture which is highly sensitive to weather and climate variables such as temperature, precipitation, and light and extreme events and low capacity for adaptation. This article reviews evidence on the scope and nature of the climate change challenge; and assesses the impact of climate change on agriculture and food security in Sub-Saharan Africa. From the review, it is apparent that the climate in Africa is already exhibiting significant changes, evident by changes in average temperature, change in amount of rainfall and patterns and the prevalence of frequency and intensity of weather extremes. The review also revealed that although uncertainties exist with regards to the magnitude of impacts, climate will negatively affect agricultural production in Sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, as result of current and expected climate change, the area suitable for agriculture, the length of growing seasons and yield potential, particularly along the margins of semi-arid and arid areas, are expected to decrease. These impacts will affect all components of food security: food availability, food accessibility, food utilisation and food stability and hence increase the risk of hunger in the region. The review thus confirms the general consensus that Sub-Saharan Africa is the most vulnerable region to climate change. It suggests that, policymakers and development agencies should focus on formulating and implementing policies and programmes that promote farm level adaptation strategies currently being practiced by farmers across the region.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) is the primary mechanism for inter-agency coordination of humanitarian assistance. It is a unique forum involving the key UN and non-UN humanitarian partners, including Caritas; CARE; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies (IFRC); Oxfam; Save the Children Alliance; United Nations World Food Programme (WFP); World Health Organization (WHO); World Vision.

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Acknowledgments

I wish to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to Dr. Kathy Baker of King’s College London for her constructive criticism and guidance in writing this paper. Acknowledgements are due to Franklin Obeng-Odoom and Vincent Kalmiri for their helpful comments and suggestions.

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Kotir, J.H. Climate change and variability in Sub-Saharan Africa: a review of current and future trends and impacts on agriculture and food security. Environ Dev Sustain 13, 587–605 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-010-9278-0

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Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Agriculture
  • Food security
  • Sub-Saharan