NAIROBI (AlertNet) – The cost of preparing the world’s agriculture to deal with increasing global temperatures will be $7 billion annually, a senior climate change researcher said this week at an African conference designed to push farming up the climate change agenda. Africa, the world’s poorest continent that is forecast to be the most affected by global warming, should receive 40 percent of that amount, said Gerald Nelson, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Africa’s farmers complain they can no longer predict when the rains or dry heat will come and crops like maize have proven highly vulnerable to changing weather patterns. “Forty percent of the $7 billion a year should be spent (in Africa) on rural roads, better irrigation methods and helping famers improve their productivity by using sustainable farming methods,” Nelson told AlertNet in the sidelines of a conference in Nairobi aimed at developing strategies to ensure climate change negotiators take account of agriculture and the plight of rural farmers in their next round of talks. A study by the International Livestock Research Institute projects that crops yields globally may fall by 10 to 20 percent by 2050 if nothing is done to adapt to increasingly erratic rainfall and drought. IFPRI warned that climate change could lead to an additional 20 percent of malnourished children, 40 percent of those in sub-Saharan Africa. For its report, IFPRI used two climate models to project grain and meat output in 2050. Both models predict higher temperatures but differ on how much precipitation would increase. One has higher temperatures and precipitation in China and the other has more rainfall in sub-Saharan Africa, for example. AGRICULTURE IS KEY Many climate change experts criticised world leaders for not giving agriculture more prominence at the failed United Nations climate change negotiations in the Danish capital Copenhagen in December. Campaigners, scientists, policymakers and farmers gathered in Nairobi this week said things must be different at the next round of talks, to be held in Mexico later this year. Food shortages, adapting agriculture and measures to mitigate the effects of climate change need to be on the agenda, they said. Providing evidence of the potential impact of changing temperatures on African farming is one way of lending weight to this argument. “We need to make sure that research on Africa’s agriculture is filtering through to inform advocacy processes,” said Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, the CEO of Food Agriculture and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN). FANRPAN is part of a consultation group of 15 agricultural research centres that are putting together research with a view to strengthening the arguments of poor nations in negotiations to secure commitments from developed nations to emission cuts and funding for adaptation. “This will help us make a better case, come COP16 in Mexico, to push for commitments on emission cuts,” Sibanda told AlertNet. “They (developed nations) have to penalise their industries which are emitting the greenhouse gasses.” Agriculture is the main source of income and food for half of the world’s population; it is most vulnerable to the impact of climate change, but is also a major source of dangerous greenhouse gas emissions.
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