Saturday, 6 April 2013

Africa: Experts Urge More Agriculture, Climate Change Research

Washington — Experts in food and agriculture are urging policymakers to prepare for future challenges to farm production from climate change.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington offered suggestions in a report released April 2 to help farmers build resilience to these challenges. The recommendations include combining research aimed at developing climate-resilient crops with that for improving production, strengthening weather and price data collection to help farmers decide what to grow, training farmers in new food production techniques, and incorporating climate change into food security policies.

The report was intended to help make policymakers aware of the uncertainties surrounding climate change and give them guidance on decisions related to developing new crop and livestock varieties, water management strategies and regional trade policies, according to IFPRI senior researcher Gerald Nelson.

He said officials need to make sure that countries have agronomists, soil scientists and livestock specialists who can work with the private sector, international researchers and community groups to address climate change and the need to produce more food. They also need to build roads that can tolerate higher temperatures so farmers can get their products to buyers, he said.


Agriculture and development expert Robert Thompson, speaking April 3 at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, backed Nelson's call for more research to help farmers adapt to climate change and meet the food and nutrition needs of the world's growing population without damaging forests or soils.

Thompson said the World Bank estimates that by 2050 the world's population will increase 40 percent. With increased demands for more types of food by countries' burgeoning middle classes and growing demand for biofuels by oil-dependent countries, farm production will need to double by the middle of the century.

"The challenge of doubling is even greater when effects of climate change are added," said Thompson, former World Bank director of rural development.

He said that climate change will shift global agro-ecosystems, which will expand growing areas in northern regions but may result in more volatile weather conditions. Rising sea levels will claim cropland in some low-
lying areas, he added.

Thompson said research is needed to make agriculture technologies more adaptive to geographic locations. For instance, he said that because climate change is extending the growing season in higher altitudes, research could find ways to help cropland in those regions produce more. Research also is needed to make currently unusable soils productive and to increase the productivity potential of crops and livestock, he said.

Thompson added that water will be another stress on agriculture as rapidly growing cities outbid agriculture for the life-giving resource. More than half of the world's population now lives in cities, he said.

"This will require investments in research to develop water-saving technologies and to increase drought-tolerance and water-use efficiency in crop varieties," he said.

Thompson said cuts in funding for agriculture and rural development made by developing countries and aid donors in the 1980s, and the increased frequency of extreme weather occurrences like drought and flooding halted the progress made in farm production during the 1960s and 1970s. Food price spikes in 2007, 2008 and 2011 brought "a wake-up call" for reinvigorated spending on agriculture, he said.

Nelson's and Thompson's views are backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which in February reported that agriculture and forest management will have to adapt to climate change. USDA said that existing and new conservation practices and research will help agriculture and forestry adapt to climate change.
Original Article Here

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