Africa: Climate change poses real threat to agriculture

By staff reporter Zhang Fang from Durban, South Africa
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, December 9, 2011
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African ministers gathered at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa on Wednesday to call for world leaders' attention to the effects of climate change on agriculture and push for reform in global agricultural practices.

African farmers working in the field [File photo]

African farmers working in the field [File photo] 

As temperatures rise, greater demand for water for crops, unpredictable rainfall, and extreme weather conditions such as heat waves, floods and droughts will profoundly affect food supplies, particularly in developing countries, according to a white paper released at the conference.

Without strong adaptation measures, climate change will reduce crops yields by 16 percent around the world, and by 28 percent in Africa by 2050. In Africa, 80 percent of famers are women, who tend to be the population hardest hit by crop shortages.

"Climate change is threatening agriculture production and food security, particularly in Africa," former UN secretary general Kofi Annan said Wednesday. "Currently, 1/7 of the world's people don't have enough food, and climate change is increasing the number."

South Africa's minister of agriculture Tina Joemat-Pettersson said climate negotiations should also consider food security. Addressing agricultural practices, which directly account for 14 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, is critical to achieving climate change goals, she said.

"Although every sector is affected by climate change, agriculture is particularly vulnerable, and farmers are the poorest people in Africa," said Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, who attended the conference.

South African President Jacob Zuma, as other ministers from Africa and World Bank are pushing for a "climate-smart agriculture" initiative, which calls for better weather forecasting, more resilient food crops and risk insurance to cover losses when the vagaries of weather strike.

"The South African government is committed to climate-smart agriculture. South Africa has a common goal to feed its people and reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Joemat-Pettersson said.

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