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Investments in Agricultural Productivity Have Potential to Offset Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture in Africa

July 28, 2009

desertificationThe new IFPRI discussion paper number 873, “Economywide Impacts of Climate Change on Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa” finds that increasing total irrigated cropland and agricultural productivity can have positive effects that are potentially large enough to offset the adverse impacts of climate change on Sub-Saharan African agriculture.

 Without specific adaptation, total food production would fall by 1.6%, with heavy losses in sugarcane and wheat. The number of malnourished children would increase by almost 2 million. Two scenarios to combat this are presented in the paper. The first doubles the irrigated area in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2050, while keeping total crop area constant. The second increases both rainfed and irrigated crop yields by 25 percent for all countries.

Because of the relatively low share of irrigated area in total agricultural area in Sub-Saharan Africa, an increase in agricultural productivity achieves much larger benefits for the region than a doubling of irrigated area. Even though Sub-Saharan Africa is not a key contributor to global food production or irrigated food production, both adaptation scenarios help lower world food prices. As a result, the number of malnourished children in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to decline by 0.3 million children by 2050 under the doubling of irrigated area scenario and by 1.6 million children under the increased agricultural productivity scenario. An increase in agricultural productivity widely exceeds the GDP losses due to climate change; GDP increases by US$25.72 billion compared to the initial reduction in GDP of US$3.33 billion. The opposite happens for an increase in irrigated area; the GDP increase does not offset GDP losses due to climate change (GDP increases by only US$113 million).

The paper can be downloaded from IFPRI here.

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