Climate Change May Put African Small-Scale Farmers at Risk


27 October, 2014
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From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.

A new study says the speed and severity of climate change could cause major damage to small African farms. These farmers are already struggling to deal with the effects of climate change. The study was released at the African Green Revolution Forum in Addis Ababa last month. It is called the 2014 African Agriculture Status Report.

David Sarfo Ameyaw was a lead producer of the report. He is a director at AGRA, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

"Small-scale farmers are the backbone of African agriculture. About 70-percent of the rural population in sub-Saharan Africa are small-scale farmers. They produce about 80-percent of the food need in Africa," said Ameyaw.

Climate Change May Put African Small-Scale Farmers at Risk
Climate change may be impacting some farmers more than others. Scientists have found that small-scale family farmers across Africa are being overwhelmed with the pact and severity of climate change. (Photo : Flickr/Brett Coulstock)

Small-scale farmers grow most of the staple crops in Africa on fields that are usually from two to 10 hectares. Small-scale farmers in Africa are much less productive than those in other continents.

In African countries, farmers produce about one-point-five tons of cereal from each hectare. Farmers in many other countries produce more than five tons per hectare. Mr Ameyaw says there are several reasons for this difference.

"About 90-precent of these farms are rain-fed, which means that they depend on the weather. Weather is rainfall. Weather is drought. Weather is [an] increase in temperature. They are [more] exposed to these climate effects than any other part of the world. On top of that most of them use their own labor or family labor. They are not mechanized," he said.

The AGRA report says farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are also dealing with rising temperatures.

"It's been projected that within the next 35 years the increase in temperature will be between one-point-five to two-point-five degrees [Celsius]. This major rise in temperature brings a lot of issues to Africa food security. It is going to affect reduction in yield, which is already low – increase invulnerability to pests and diseases that will kill most of the livestock," said Ameyaw.

Climate change is also expected to affect the average length of the growing season, this could continue to reduce the already low amount of crops that come from each hectare.

Mr Ameyaw says experts are urging African farmers to reduce the effects of climate change with a program called climate smart agriculture. The program includes ways to improve and care for soil.

"We are talking about farmers being able to adopt both organic and inorganic nutrient enriching technology to improve their soil fertility. Things that we promote are the right use of inorganic and organic fertilizer, soil tillage, the right use of cultivating the land. Putting things like legumes and cereals together to increase the soil nutrient content," he said.

Mr Ameyaw says these is a great possibility for agricultural growth in Africa led by small-scale farmers. I'm Caty Weaver.