Global weather patterns are changing and the world isn’t just warming but weather patterns are becoming more erratic. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), global warming shattered records in 2016 making it the hottest year on record as increases in greenhouse gases drove global warming.
Several countries in the Horn of Africa are bearing the brunt of a ravaging drought which is being exacerbated by climate change. Over 12.4 million people in the Horn of Africa are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The expected rains in this region have either failed completely or have been insufficient resulting in death of livestock and crop failures. Early this year, famine was declared in Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. These countries are facing food emergencies.
Crop production will continue to be adversely affected by a combination of water stress and higher average annual temperatures. With the global population predicted to reach 9.1 billion, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, feeding this number of people is not a small feat. Global food production will need to grow by 70%. Farmers need to intelligently adapt to the changing climate in order to sustain crop yields. Adaptation will require more climate resilient technologies, new agricultural practices, and more resilient infrastructure. Protecting livelihoods will require enhancing the resilience of agriculture.
Climate resilient technologies
Practices such as soil management, water management, agroforestry and other crop specific innovations are critical to improving crop production under climate change. From drought tolerant maize varieties to disease and heat resistant chicken pea varieties to coffee-banana intercropping, these agricultural interventions are helping improve farm incomes through climate resilience and enhanced productivity.
Livestock management plays a key role in improving agricultural productivity. Cross breeding has seen the emergence of livestock breeds that are resilient to heat, drought, and diseases. Animal productivity can also be improved using pasture and fodder varieties. Increasing productivity requires proper communication along the value chain.
Agriculture is the largest user of the world’s freshwater resources. In this regard, the threat posed by water stress calls for water management technologies. Sustained agricultural productivity relies on the availability of freshwater. Improving water use efficiency and its sustainability becomes essential. Researchers are using nuclear and isotopic techniques in soil and water management studies in order to bolster sustainability. Farming will require the prevention of land and water degradation and a proper understanding of water movement and pathways within agricultural landscapes.
The rise of precision agriculture is boosting returns on investment enabling farmers to spend less on fertilizer and other nutrients but boost yields at the same time. Applying the right amount of inputs benefits the entire crop cycle. Gathering machine data will enable more precise planting, soil data, and topographical mapping. These essentials provide relevant insights that will benefit the entire crop cycle thus supporting sustainability.
Aquaculture, also known as aquafarming, which is generally the aquatic equivalent of agriculture involves essentially the farming of animals and plants that live in lakes, the sea, and rivers for human consumption. Innovation and expansion in aquafarming offer cost-effective opportunities to provide sustainable sources of protein under climate change. The supply of fish and seafood through fishing is becoming less sustainable thus replacing its sustainability through aquaculture becomes key.
Orphaned crops, those that aren’t traded internationally, therefore, getting less attention as far as research is concerned, can be used as a vital tool in battling food and nutrition insecurity that are worsened by climate change. Just like crossbreeds, these crops are resilient to an array of stresses like droughts and extreme temperatures.
Ensuring sustainable agriculture is essential having in mind that feeding 9 billion humans in 2050 will require almost doubling current agricultural productivity. Agro-ecological zones are extremely diverse highlighting the need for interventions to be targeted to specific contexts in order to realize sustainability. Long term strategic research is required to ensure adaptability to climate change, sustainability, food and nutrition security, and sustained incomes.