Table of Contents

1. Overview

  • The 13th of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) addresses climate.
  • Climate change has climatic ramifications well beyond merely averaged temperature increases. Through higher order perturbations in rainfall and temperature characteristics these changes present serious challenges to agriculture and forestry.
  • The agriculture and forestry two sectors provide food, feed, fibre, timber and energy and contribute significantly to the GDPs of economies worldwide, be it directly and through knock-on effects. As such, climate change is causing grave concern at all levels of society worldwide because plants and animals may not be able to cope with, and adapt to, the progressive and projected changes in climate like humans can and this poses a serious threat to ecosystems.

Source: Draft Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Plan, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

The Draft Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Plan, being developed by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), provides an excellent summary of climate change and its multiple effects across the country’s natural resources, agriculture and forestry, and the resulting potential impact on the economy. Included in the analysis are the changes that will be effected in each of the major crops and livestock species e.g. changes of where a crop is grown. See also the reference to the Handbook  for  Farmers,  Officials  and  Other  Stakeholders  on  Adaptation  to  Climate Change in the Agriculture Sector within South Africa under heading 8. 

Several gases in the atmosphere trap energy from the sun – and warm the earth. Without this “greenhouse effect” life would not be possible on this planet. Our activities over the past two centuries though, especially the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil, have increased the building up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. More energy from the sun is being trapped and the earth is becoming warmer. “Global warming” refers to this enhanced greenhouse effect.

It is true that our planet goes through natural cycles of change, lasting hundreds of years. In that amount of time, though, plants and animals are able to adapt. The manner in which humanity is developing though has speeded up the changes in climate, leaving less time to adapt and placing our ecosystems in danger.



2. Africa

Africa is already the hottest continent, and is expected to warm up to 1.5 times faster than the global average (IPCC, 2015).

Prolonged drought is one of the most serious climatic hazards affecting the agricultural sector of the continent. Most of agricultural activities in African countries hinge on rain, and any adverse changes in the climate would likely have a devastating effect on the sector in the region, and the livelihood of the majority of the population.

Five main climate change related drivers: temperature, precipitation, sea level rise, atmospheric carbon dioxide content and incidence of extreme events, may affect the agriculture sector in the following ways:

  1. Reduction in crop yields and agriculture productivity. There is growing evidence that in the tropics and subtropics, where crops have reached their maximum tolerance, crop yields are likely to decrease due to an increase in the temperature.
  2. Increased incidence of pest attacks. An increase in temperature is also likely to be conducive for a proliferation of pests that are detrimental to crop production.
  3. Limit the availability of water. It is expected that there will be less water available in most parts of Africa. Particularly, there will be a severe down trend in the rainfall in Southern African countries and in the dry areas of countries around the Mediterranean Sea.
  4. Exacerbation of drought periods. An increase in temperature and a change in the climate throughout the continent are predicted to cause recurrent droughts in most of the region.
  5. Reduction in soil fertility. An increase in temperature is likely to reduce soil moisture, moisture storage capacity and the quality of the soil, which are vital nutrient for agricultural crops.
  6. Low livestock productivity and high production cost. Climate change will affect livestock productivity directly by influencing the balance between heat dissipation and heat production and indirectly through its effect on the availability of feed and fodder.
  7. Availability of human resource. Climate change is likely to cause the manifestation of vector and vector born diseases, where an increase in temperature and humidity will create ideal conditions for malaria, sleeping sickness and other infectious diseases that will directly affect the availability of human resources for the agriculture sector.

The impact of these adverse climate changes on agriculture is exacerbated in Africa by the lack of adapting strategies, which are increasingly limited owing to the lack of institutional, economic and financial capacity to support such actions.

Africa’s vulnerability to climate change and its inability to adapt to these changes may be devastating to the agriculture sector, the main source of livelihood to the majority of the population. The utmost concern should therefore be a better understanding of the potential impact of the current and projected climate changes on African agriculture and to identify ways and means to adapt and mitigate its detrimental impact.

Source: (now defunct)