Crop failure? But Not As We Know It.

“Kenya faces crop failure in coming season, warns FAO”, proclaimed the headline in Business Daily and the piece was dutifully quoted and repeated across the world. But what did the FAO report in fact say? The relevant section of the report, dealing with Eastern Africa, bears the sub-head ‘Below average seasonal rains raise concerns’. It goes on as follows:

“In Kenya, insufficient rainfall during the initial stage of the main cropping season (March-April) is likely to have impeded crop growth, increasing the probability of yet another poor harvest. By contrast, production estimates are favourable in western maize growing regions, bordering Lake Victoria, which received near normal rainfall from March to June. Preliminary forecasts from the Ministry of Agriculture estimate maize production at 2.4 million tonnes for the long rains season, 16 percent below the average of the past five years. Harvesting is scheduled to begin in August. Kenya has imported approximately 1.1 million tonnes of white and yellow maize between November 2008 and mid-June 2009 in efforts to maintain domestic cereal supplies, following low production levels in 2008.”

So the news could be a lot better, but crisis? What crisis?

Additional Resources:

The Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS) reviews the world food supply/demand, issues reports on the world food situation and provides early warnings of impending food crises in individual countries.

Monitoring and Predicting Agricultural Drought: A Global Study (Hardcover) by Boken, Cracknell and Heathcote, Oxford University Press, USA, 2005.


Climate Change in Africa – predicting and adapting

Dr. Kai Sonder, GIS (Geographic Information Systems) expert at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA in Ibadan, Nigeria, is using information relayed by satellites stationed high above the earth, as well as outputs from global climate models, to find answers to Africa’s most pressing problems. Monitoring the trends in rainfall and temperature in different regions of Africa, Sonder is part of a team of scientists that is recommending new farming practices to ensure food security across the continent.

Climate variability, rather than climate change, is how Kai Sonder prefers to describe the current situation in Africa. But he confirms that rainfall is becoming more unpredictable. “Global warming is expected to cause less rainfall in some areas and more of it in others. In Zimbabwe, Malawi and parts of Mozambique, for example, people have a high dependency on maize. But droughts are becoming more frequent and causing heavy losses.”

IITA’s work should allow policymakers to recommend changes in current farming practices. For Sonder, this is all necessary work if millions of people are to be prepared for the future, particularly as he emphasises that, “many areas of Africa are already suffering under adverse effects of what climate change is predicted to bring for larger areas.” However, in the shorter term, Sonder believes farmers need reliable information about each coming season, since this ought to determine which crops to plant and when. The use of mobile phones to communicate market prices in Kenya and Uganda offers a model for how such information might be spread widely and quickly.

Excerpted from an article at New Agriculturalist written by Oluyinka Alawode and Adeleke O’Adeyemi. Read full article here.