Agriculture development in Africa is predicted to be more difficult as a result of climate change. Crop and livestock production are becoming more volatile as weather patterns become less favorable in many cases. Extreme events are becoming more common, severe temperatures are expected to rise further, and rainfall patterns are expected to shift considerably more than they have already.
Africa is susceptible in general because many of its crops are on the verge of reaching physical limits, beyond which yields begin to drop. Furthermore, agriculture accounts for a significant amount of the economies of some nations (for example, one-third of Ethiopia’s GDP and one-fifth of Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic production).
Some aspects of adaptation may be difficult; for example, African farmers are more vulnerable to higher temperatures, fluctuating rainfall, and variable yields than farmers in developed countries. The latter can usually obtain crop insurance, adjust what they plant, irrigate their fields, or apply crop protection chemicals and fertilisers more easily.
Impact on farmers and buyers
In a study, McKinsey focuses on major crops that can be found in both Mozambique and Ethiopia. By making use of crop yield models, the management consultation firm analysed and assessed the impact that climate change will have in the year 2030; particularly, how it will impact crops such as coffee and wheat in Ethiopia, along with cotton and corn in Mozambique.
“It is important to note that Africa is a climatologically diverse continent and that the results presented here are not representative of the challenges or changes faced by other African nations. Climate change will affect some regions of Africa more or less than it affects Ethiopia and Mozambique,” the firm said in its report.
“While volatility is often symmetric, meaning positive and negative shocks are roughly equally likely, we find that the overall effect of increasing volatility is negative. Farmers and other players in the value chain usually do not fully capture the benefits from good years due to a limited ability to sell bumper harvest into shallow local markets, absence of storage infrastructure to smooth supply over many years, and poor transportation infrastructure that makes sale into other markets difficult,” it added.
Ethiopian wheat producers are expected to face an 11% greater chance or larger reduction in annual production by 2030 than they are currently. The possibility of a 25% or larger decline in annual yield for Ethiopian coffee producers might rise from 3.2% to 4.2% in 2030 – a 31% increase, and a 28% cumulative likelihood over the next decade.
“We estimate that if yield shocks of this magnitude happen for both crops in the same year, Ethiopia’s GDP growth rate will be reduced by about three percentage points,” McKinsey stated.
“In Mozambique, we find a large seasonal loss (more than 30%) of the corn crop is expected to go from a highly improbable event to a 100-year event. We estimate that a 25% or greater drop in corn yields would reduce Mozambique’s GDP by 2.5%. Conversely, we find that cotton yields would become more stable; however, given the small size of cotton farming, this does not provide a strong counterbalance to the negative impacts on corn.”
An increased volatility for Africa’s crops will lead to higher price volatility, impacting both farmers and buyers.
“African countries are already working to counteract growing volatility, but better and more localised planning and financial mobilisation will be key.”