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Deadline Looms For Africa's Food Supply Threatened by Climate Change

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One of the sectors most affected by climate change is agriculture, as increasing temperatures may lead to crop failure. A new study says that without immediate action to assist farmers in adapting and adjusting to the effects of climate change, it will become difficult for them to grow crops in some parts of Africa.

In the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers from the University of Leeds investigated how climate change will impact nine crops mostly planted in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Staple Crops At Risk

The researchers found that about 30 percent of areas where staple crops such as bananas and maize grow could become unviable by the end of this century. About 60 percent of land areas producing beans could also become useless in the near future as a result of the increasing global temperature.

In some areas, transformation is needed to prevent the drying up of lands by as early as 2025.

Out of the nine crops, six crops - groundnut, pearl millet, cassava, finger millet, yam and sorghum - are expected to remain stable even after extreme climate change situations in the future.

"This study tells where, and crucially when, interventions need to be made to stop climate change destroying vital food supplies in Africa," said lead author Julian Ramirez-Villegas of the University of Leeds and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.

What Can Be Done?

Transformation should be implemented to help farmers adjust to climate change. This includes changing the type of crop grown in specific areas affected and improving irrigation systems. In some areas were extreme scenarios are predicted, the land may not support agriculture any longer.

Andy Challinor, the study's co-author and a professor at the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds, says that flexibility in agriculture is a necessary response to climate change.

"This study shows where and when transformations will be needed," he says.

Though the study predicts these changes by the end of the century, global warming is slowly taking a toll on lands used for growing crops. Unless immediate actions will be taken, Africa is expected to lose some crops in its lands in the next decade.

Photo: Rod Waddington | Flickr

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