ifpri-newCLIMATE CHANGE AND AGRICULTURE IN SOUTHERN AFRICA: New book helps region understand what might be in store and what to do about it

September 3, 2013, Maseru, Lesotho—The southern region of Africa could be the hardest hit by rising temperatures from climate change, leaving many to wonder what this means for agriculture. Will some areas become unsuitable for farming? Will farmers face lower yields, or turn to new crops? Will climate change threaten food security? These are challenging questions for policymakers, who must plan for the future without available information and analysis.

A new book, published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and released today by three research organizations, starts to fill this information gap. Southern African Agriculture and Climate Change offers an analysis of the impact of climate change on the area’s agriculture, including full-color maps illustrating a variety of scenarios for eight of the region’s countries : Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

“National climate change adaptation policies are not informed by robust research evidence combining socioeconomic and biophysical models,” said Sepo Hachingonta, program manager for the Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), a regional agricultural research and development organization. “This book offers that evidence but also urges additional and extensive cost-benefit analysis research on climate change adaptation alternatives.”

The book is the result of a collaboration between IFPRI, the CGIAR research program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), FANRPAN, and scientists from each of the countries. Using sophisticated modeling and available data to develop future scenarios and explore a range of climate change consequences for agriculture, food security, and resource management, the book offers recommendations to national governments and regional agencies.

Some findings from the book:

  • Wheat is particularly vulnerable to high temperatures in most of the tropics, but in relatively temperate South Africa, yields could increase.
  • Maize and sorghum yields, on average, will decline, yet some areas are bright spots and will see a rise, such as southern Mozambique.
  • Crop yields might struggle to keep pace with anticipated population growth, but this could be offset by a projected doubling of incomes across the region.
  • Migration patterns could change as people migrate out of areas hard hit by climate change to cities or to areas favored by climate change.
  • Successful agricultural adaptation to climate change is not just about better seeds and practices, but building better roads and education systems, which give farmers greater access to markets and the background necessary to make fully informed decisions about new agricultural practices.

 “Having data available in one place will provide national and regional policymakers with the necessary information to inform policy and decisionmaking,” said Tim Thomas, IFPRI research fellow. “The book serves as a compendium of scenarios looking at the impacts of climate change on agriculture in southern Africa and how it will affect farmers,” he added.

Southern African Agriculture and Climate Change is one of a three-part series examining climate change and agriculture in three regions of Africa: West Africa, East Africa, and southern Africa.  It will be launched today at the FANRPAN High-Level Food Security Multi-Stakeholder Policy Dialogue, which is focused on scaling up agriculture best adapted to climate change. West African Agriculture and Climate Change was launched in April; East African Agriculture and Climate Change will be launched in Burundi at the 2nd Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa General Assembly and Scientific Conference in December.

For more information, including country-specific reports, please visit:

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI was established in 1975 to identify and analyze alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world, with particular emphasis on low-income countries and on the poorer groups in those countries. It is a member of the CGIAR Consortium.

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is a strategic partnership of CGIAR and Future Earth, led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).  CCAFS brings together the world’s best researchers in agricultural science, development research, climate science and Earth System science, to identify and address the most important interactions, synergies and tradeoffs between climate change, agriculture and food security.

The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) is a multi-stakeholder, multi-national policy network that supports the development and implementation of better food, agriculture and national resources (FANR) policies in Africa. Its members include universities, research institutes, the business sector, farmer groups and other civil society organizations that have a stake in FANR policies. FANRPAN’s membership is organized into national nodes in sixteen countries, with a national secretariat hosted by an existing national institution that has a mandate for agricultural policy research and advocacy. FANRPAN also has a mandate to work Africa wide.