African countries are looking to outsmart the rising threat of climate change by increasing their research into climate-ready crops, as well as adaptation planning.
“Climate-ready” is the new buzzword amongst Africa’s lower and lower-middle income economies as they rush to develop crop varieties that can help farmers beat the impact of climate change and increase yields – and research into climate-ready crops and planning for food resilience is on the rise.
Kenya, Senegal and Ghana have all raised their contribution to global climate-ready crops research as countries across the continent race to find out what they can do to mitigate warmer global temperatures.
The latest UNESCO Science Report titled “The race against time for smarter development”, published in June, shows that Ethiopia, Mali and Mozambique are among low-income countries that have more than doubled their contribution to global research output on climate-ready crops.
“UNESCO has found that developing countries focus more of their research efforts on topics vital for their development such as agro-ecology, climate-ready crops and sustainable waste management,” said United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres in the report.
The State of the Climate in Africa 2019 report, published by World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in 2020, predicts that over a five-year period from 2020 to 2024, there will be continued warming and decreasing rainfall especially over North and Southern Africa and increased rainfall over the Sahel.
Already, climate change is contributing to food insecurity linked to devastating floods and locust invasion across the continent.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report shows extensive areas of Africa will exceed 2°C of warming above pre-industrial levels by the last two decades of this century, under medium scenarios.
According to the UNESCO report, climate-ready crops now make up one of the fastest-growing research topics for Africa and take the lead among topics in at least 100 publications.
Countries across Africa have also started looking at ways to adapt – creating another buzzword in the climate change lexicon: “adaptation planning”.
“This trend is in line with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme and the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods,” says the UNESCO report.
Since 2014, there have also been increased investor activities attributed to the rise in climate-related research in West Africa.
The report points to the rise in World Bank support for the Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence programme as well as some German-funded projects.
The West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement at the University of Ghana, which is developing climate-resilient strains of food crops is supported by World Bank, while Germany has pumped over 56 million US dollars into the West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use. The support also extends to related doctoral programmes at universities in the region.
In East Africa, a centre specializing in climate-smart agriculture at Haramaya University in Kenya and another on agro-ecology and livelihood systems at the Uganda Martyrs University are supported by the Bretton Woods Institute.
“With the Covid-19 pandemic having altered global flows of food and agricultural workers, the topic of climate-ready crops may become a priority investment for countries wishing to maintain healthy domestic food supplies,” said the report.
While the trend certainly bodes well for science in Africa, the race to get ahead of climate changes is well and truly on.
Editing by Nest, bird’s virtual newsroom.
This work was made possible through the support of #AfricaNoFilter, a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisor