Keeping Up with Climate Change - Climate Zoning as a Tool to Fight Hunger
In countries around the world, farming households are facing the wrath of unpredictable climate patterns. This has not only resulted in hunger related deaths, but also in an increase in the number of persons living below the poverty line in many developing countries, especially in Africa where vulnerability is high.
The year 2017 saw over 30 million people facing starvation in East Africa, South Sudan, Yemen and northeastern Nigeria alone, according to reports by Oxfam International. Although these regions have experienced drought conditions in the last three to five years, the intensity and frequency of drought have increased - along with high food loses and hunger. This has threatened the livelihoods of the 80 percent of households in these regions that directly depend on subsistence farming. Some World Bank studies in Uganda show that 10 million people slipped below the poverty line in the last five years. This situation may reverse efforts by development groups to help vulnerable populations out of poverty, especially if nothing is urgently done to reduce the effects of climate change.
Although the Government of Uganda and numerous development partners have invested millions of shillings to boost agriculture production across the country, Mzee Okello and many others still stare at death in the face. Reports, like that published by DFID in 2008 , reveal that Uganda’s temperatures will rise by 1.4 oC on average by 2020 and as high as 4.3 oC by the 2080s. They serve as a call to action that we must respond to.
This should start with mapping of climate and livelihood zones such that targeted advisories and interventions can be implemented. Uganda has 38 livelihood zones mapped by looking at the uniqueness of the soils, rainfall patterns and farmer cropping patterns and behaviors. However, the agro-ecological zones as we know them today are being re-shaped by increasingly frequent extreme climate events, such as flooding and prolonged drought.
This is something Ethiopia is aggressively pursuing, starting with accurately mapping climate zones and understanding of climate trends in the different Woredas (district administrative units). With the Agriculture Growth Program (AGP) targeting youth and women, Ethiopia is boosting production by working with farmer cooperatives and involving the private sector in agro-processing and marketing. This has led to tremendous increases in production, with wheat yields in Sinana woreda tripling from 1.8 to 5.0 tons per hectare in just three years, between 2011 and 2013. Although the country experienced severe drought in the last cropping season that led to low harvests, one can appreciate the progress they are making towards achieving food and income sufficiency among farming households through this type of planning.
Norman Borlaug, the American scientist who led the green revolution around the world, once said that you can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery. Climate change is therefore a direct threat to peace as it threatens to increase poverty across the world.
Ariong Moses is an Agriculture and Environment Specialist. He is an Aspen New Voices fellow 2017. He tweets @ariongm
Story originally published on http://allafrica.com/view/group/main/main/id/00058572.html