Identifying key national and sub-national information for decision making on adaptation strategies

Session number 1 Room: Al Anood A-B

Key Messages

  1. Multidisciplinary quantitative and qualitative modeling, that incorporates climate, crop and livestock and socioeconomic disciplines, is necessary to facilitate informed climate change decisions on adaptation despite uncertainties associated with climate change assessments
  2. National Climate change adaptation policies must be informed by localized climate and socio-economic knowledge
  3. There is great need to collect, synthesize and transform climate, and socio-economic data and to identify and address critical data gaps in order inform climate adaptation policies
  4. Governments and international agencies need to invest more in developing crop varieties and improved techniques, and support extension efforts to communicate findings

Summary of the session

Three regional presentations were made by the panel, covering East and Central Africa, West Africa, and Southern Africa.  The presentations focused on finding from research monographs which studied the impact of climate change on agriculture, with a focus on finding adaptation options for policymakers.  After the presentations, the audience had several key questions and points.  These include the following:

  • There is a need to better communicate and coordinate in many different ways, including between farmers, researchers, and policymakers; between scientists and experts from various disciplines (including social, agronomy, livestock, forests, climate, economics, water, and health); and across ministries.
  • There is need to establish better baseline data in weather, farming systems (including input and output measurement), landcover and land use, ecosystems, livelihoods, market data, etc.
  • There is uncertainty in climate model results, in that the various models do not agree.  This is not likely to be resolved with time.  However, there are some lessons that can be learned from the models, including ranges of changes and levels of agreement, and these can be useful to shape policy decisions. Policymakers and researchers need to learn to live with the uncertainty and yet develop plans that will promote agriculture and general economic development.
  • Climate changes and population growth are likely to cause conflict between various parties, including crop farmers and pastoralists.  This may involve also shifting of farmers from land that will become untenable due to climate change to other land.  This also may put pressure on national parks and other sensitive ecological areas.  This suggests better policies related to property rights, adding additional national parks in some cases, and better protection of protected areas in some cases.
  • In terms of projecting to the future, need to add an awareness of the aspirations of the people for their own futures.
  • Need to consider better regional integration and trade, especially removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers.  In economic terms, it allows for better food security and potentially better prices for farmers.  In terms of research, it helps conserve valuable research money through economies of scale.  And it can be helpful in terms of sharing policy lessons learned.
  • Need to look more widely at why productivity remains low, including things like high transport costs of fertilizers and other inputs, as well as outputs; high cost of credit or lack of availability; poor market infrastructure, including export marketing.  But also on-farm issues such as water harvesting.  But also need to educate farmers about health and environmental risks of changed production patterns (e.g., erosion from new ways of cultivating, agrochemical contamination, etc).

Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) (Lead)
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD)
The Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA)

Related links

Country reports from this initiative

Benin Botswana Burkina Faso Burundi
Cote d’Ivoire DR Congo Eritrea Ethiopia
Ghana Guinea Kenya Lesotho
Liberia Madagascar Malawi Mozambique
Niger Nigeria Rwanda Senegal
Sierra Leone South Africa Sudan Swaziland
Tanzania Togo Uganda Zambia

Blogs from this session: Coming soon

More session information ↓

Brief synopsis of the issue

Climate change will have significant and negative impacts on agriculture in Sub Saharan Africa. However, considerable uncertainty exists about the nature and extent of such change. Despite these uncertainties, national policy makers need information at national level or below to make policy and investment decisions on adaptation alternatives.

The vulnerability of Sub Sahara African countries to climate change is compounded by strong dependence on rain-fed agriculture and natural resources, high levels of poverty, low levels of human capital, and poor infrastructure in rural areas. Moreover, climate change may reduce the land suitable for agriculture, potentially leading to increases in clearing of new land crop cultivation, with a consequent significant increase in carbon.

Adaptation initiatives in Africa remain top-down, technology driven with little room for knowledge sharing and learning from local realities and across different disciplines. There has been a lack of social-economic analysis of local climate change adaptation strategies: For example, NAPAs for Lesotho and Malawi propose a number of agricultural adaptations; however, no analysis was conducted to determine the feasibility or justify the options.

The purpose of this roundtable is to identify, measure, and better target responses to the vulnerable communities and promote multi-disciplinary approach to climate change adaptation research. This will lead to informed decisions around the design or policy responses and programme interventions for them to strengthen the capacities of households to adapt to external hazards.


  • Facilitator: Dr Cristina Rumbaitis Del Rio (Rockefeller Foundation)
  • Rapporteur: Dr Timothy Thomas
  • Introduction: Dr Cristina Rumbaitis Del Rio – 5 minutes
  • Presentations (8 minutes each):
    • Dr Abdulai Jalloh: (CORAF, West Africa)
    • Dr Sepo Hachigonta: (FANRPAN, Southern Africa), and
    • Dr Michael Waithaka: (ASARECA, East Africa)
  • Discussion of the session’s questions
  • Wrap up and summary of key points: Dr Timothy Thomas

Questions to be addressed:

  1. Despite uncertainties associated with climate change assessments, how can policy makers make informed decisions about adaptation alternatives;
  2. What capacity is needed to generate relevant and multi-disciplinary knowledge on climate change adaptation;
  3. How do we develop agriculture development policies that take into account environmental, social and economic aspects;
  4. How do we generate evidence to inform adaptation investment decisions
  5. What mechanisms are needed to promote interdisciplinary climate change adaptation research?

Case study Challenges from climate change pause vulnerability to a number of sectors, especially on agriculture in most of Sub Saharan Africa countries. Higher temperatures in the tropics and subtropics tend to reduce yields of desirable crops in many places. Rise in temperature tend to promote weed and pest proliferation. Greater variations in precipitation patterns increase the likelihood of short-run crop failures and long-run production declines. Although there will be gains in some crops in some regions of the world, the overall impacts of climate change on agriculture are expected to be negative, threatening global food security. We present case studies on Agriculture and Climate Change: A Comprehensive Analysis for East, West and Southern Africa.