News / Africa

Climate Change May Overwhelm Farmers

A farmer picks his maize in a field near the house and birth place of former South African President Nelson Mandela in Qunu, South Africa, Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)
A farmer picks his maize in a field near the house and birth place of former South African President Nelson Mandela in Qunu, South Africa, Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)

Multimedia

Audio
  • Listen to De Capua report on status of African Agriculture

Joe DeCapua

A new study says the “pace and severity of climate change” may overwhelm small-scale farmers in Africa. The study describes those farmers as the “mainstay of food production” on the continent. The findings were released at the African Green Revolution Forum in Addis Ababa.

Listen to De Capua report on status of African Agriculture
Listen to De Capua report on status of African Agriculturei
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

The 2014 African Agriculture Status Report says small-scale farmers are already struggling to keep up with the effects of climate change.

Dr. David Sarfo Ameyaw is managing editor of the report and Director of Strategy, Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation at AGRA, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

He said, “Small-scale farmers are the backbone of African agriculture. About 70-percent of the rural population in sub-Saharan Africa are small-scale farmers. They produce about 80-percent of the food need in Africa.”

Small-scale farmers grow most of the staple crops in Africa on plots of land usually ranging two to 10 hectares. They lag far behind farmers in many other countries in cereal production with about one-point-five tons per hectare compared with over five tons elsewhere.

“About 90-precent of these farms are rain-fed, which means that they depend on the weather. Weather is rainfall. Weather is drought. Weather is [an] increase in temperature. They are [more] exposed to these climate effects than any other part of the world. On top of that most of them use their own labor or family labor. They are not mechanized,” he said.

The AGRA report said farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are “contending with an increase in average temperatures.”

“It’s been projected that within the next 35 years the increase in temperature will be between one-point-five to two-point-five degrees [Celsius]. This major rise in temperature brings a lot of issues to Africa food security. It is going to affect reduction in yield, which is already low – increase invulnerability to pests and diseases that will kill most of the livestock,” said Ameyaw.

Climate change is also expected to affect the average length of the growing season, which could reduce already low crop yields.

Ameyaw said to mitigate the effects of climate change, African farmers are urged to adopt – what’s called – climate smart agriculture. It includes improved soil management.

“We are talking about farmers being able to adopt both organic and inorganic nutrient enriching technology to improve their soil fertility. Things that we promote are the right use of inorganic and organic fertilizer, soil tillage, the right use of cultivating the land. Putting things like legumes and cereals together to increase the soil nutrient content,” he said.

Another recommendation is the adoption of new crop varieties that rely less on manufactured fertilizers -- or have a higher tolerance for heat or drought. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa official said plant breeders are also increasing both the productivity and nutritional value of crops.

He said, “In AGRA, what we do is to be able to help African scientists. Currently, we have trained about 200 Africa crop breeders. We have been able to release over 400 Africa varieties. About 80-percent of these varieties have been commercialized. When I say ‘commercialized’ it means it has been multiplied by Africa seed companies.”

The new varieties include maize, sweet potato, sorghum, soya and cassava. Ameyaw says they are not genetically modified.

“No, no, no, no, no. AGRA, as an organization, doesn’t promote GMO. We are talking about conventional breeding to improve varieties that will be adopted by the farmers and that can be able to withstand the climate change that we are going through.”

Ameyaw said, “Despite climate change, there is enormous potential for smallholder-led agricultural growth.” But he adds, “There is an urgent need to increase investment and expand climate smart agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa.”

He estimated that would cost more than $1,600 per smallholder farmer each year for 10 years.

“Through donors and other people, we will be able to invest about 10-percent of these amounts. Governments would invest about 50-percent. And private sector will invest about 40-percent of this amount to transform Africa agriculture by 2020.”

Investments, he said, are needed for such things as research and development, the training of scientists, reducing post-harvest waste through better processing, storage and transportation and modern marketing techniques. 

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs