Climate Change

Climate change: Food production in Africa’s Sudano-Sahelian Zone under threat, finds study

The Sudano-Sahelian Zone in Africa is the most vulnerable to climate change

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Monday 17 May 2021
The Sudano-Sahelian Zone in West Africa is the most vulnerable to climate change. Photo: Flickr

The Sudano-Sahelian Zone, which comprises 16 countries in Africa, is the most vulnerable to climate change. The associated risks have pushed food crop as well as livestock production outside safe climatic space (SCS), in turn jeopardising food security in the region, a new study has warned.

The region, one of the poorest in the world, is characterised by fluctuating rainfall and droughts. 

The study, led by Finland’s Aalto University, therefore raised alarm over the increasing threat to production of food crops and livestock in the region. It was published in journal One Earth May 14, 2021.

As much as 20 per cent of the world’s current crop production and 18 per cent of global livestock production are at risk of falling outside the safe climatic space.

The researchers define safe climatic space as the areas where 95 per cent of global food crop production takes place due to favourable weather conditions, temperature, rainfall, etc.

The Sudano-Sahelian region lies outside SCS.

The study flagged that more than a third of global food crop production as well 34 per cent of livestock production would be at risk by 2081-2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the current rate.

This affirms the findings of previous studies that identified Sudano-Sahelian Zone as the most vulnerable region to climate change in the world.

The findings of the recent study support the existing research and caution about food insecurity that can be exacerbated by climate in the next 30 years (by 2050). 

South and southeast Asia too have been identified as the most vulnerable to climate change effects.

The study deployed two future scenarios of climate change: One wherein carbon dioxide emissions were significantly reduced, limiting global warming to 1.5-2 degrees Celsius, and the other wherein emissions continued to increase.

The results showed the overall food production would remain in a safe climate space in future in 52 of the 177 countries studied. These include Finland and most European countries.

The boreal forest that grows in regions of the northern hemisphere with cold temperatures — and which stretches across northern North America, Russia and Europe — would shrink to 14.8 million square kilometres from 18 million square kilometres by 2100, the study flagged.

The forests will leave only about 8 million square kilometres if emissions are not reduced, it added.

 In North America, this change is likely to be even more dramatic. The largest reduction in relative terms occurs in the tundra that might disappear if trends continue.

At the same time, the tropical dry forest and tropical desert zones are estimated to grow from 59.7 million square kilometres to 62.7-64.3 million square kilometres, indicating drier conditions in many regions.

The study analysis should be linked to other sectors in future studies, to seek future opportunities to secure sustainable development and equity, according to researchers.

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