AFRICA: Adaptation strategy hit parade

IRIN News – JOHANNESBURG, 9 August 2010 (IRIN) – Crops that mature faster and are tolerant of more frequent and intense droughts top the list of how most countries adapt their food production to climate change, says a new paper.

The discussion paper, led by Jonathan Makau Nzuma from the University of Nairobi and produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), looked at adaptation in agriculture in 10 sub-Saharan countries: Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

The paper lists 26 adaptation strategies – two of which are common to all 10 countries, and five that are common to more than five countries – and reviews what progress has been made in adapting to erratic weather patterns.

The authors hope the findings will feed into and enhance the attempts of African countries to get financial and technical assistance at the ongoing global climate change talks under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The paper was also prompted by a need to get a better understanding of the countries’ National Action Plans for Adaptation, “whether they contained actionable items, how comparable they were across countries, and.[if] there was any potential for regional cooperation,” said Gerald Nelson, a senior research fellow at IFPRI and one of the authors of the paper.

“Given the history of civil conflicts in at least half of the countries,” it was sometimes difficult to get crop and livestock data from all the countries, the authors noted, yet they managed to collect adequate data from every country.

All the countries had built adaptation strategies into their development plans, and most countries were already implementing some of the strategies.

Here are the top seven strategies:

1 Develop drought-tolerant and early-maturing crop varieties

2. Look at new and renewable energy resources such as solar power

3. Use small dams to harvest rainwater

4. Cross-breed to produce hardier species; reduce the number of livestock overall by sale or slaughter

5. Conserve pastureland by designating no-grazing areas, and keeping smaller livestock like sheep and goats

6. Conserving and restoring vegetation in degraded areas

7. Developing Integrated Disease Surveillance Response systems and emergency preparedness to prevent, mitigate and respond to agricultural epidemics