Since 2015, drought-induced crop failures and livestock deaths have left more than 10 million people in Ethiopia dependent on food assistance, while the drought remains relentless even today. In southern Africa, an outbreak of armyworms damages maize harvests and threatens the livelihoods of over 70 percent of the region that rely on agriculture.
These are just two of the many visible signs warning that now fertile farmland may be under considerable threat of becoming unviable. No one understands this better than the farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and the scientists at CIAT and its partners who study the changing climate patterns expected on the continent by the end of this century.
These climate scientists mapped out where and when changes will occur in agricultural viability, in research that’s the first of its kind, and the results are nothing short of alarming. Their findings indicate that, unless adaptation is pursued, the agricultural landscape of sub-Saharan Africa is expected look drastically different than the one these farmers, and our global food supply, currently rely on.
I had the opportunity to interview one of the scientists behind this groundbreaking research, Dr. Julian Ramirez-Villegas, a Climate Impacts Scientist at CIAT. Julian led the paper “Timescales of transformational climate change adaptation in sub-Saharan African agriculture.” You can read the full paper here.
Julian and his team looked at nine of the most important crops for agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa—banana, cassava, bean, finger millet, groundnut, pearl millet, sorghum, yam, and maize—and the transformations each are projected to undergo in the 21st century. These nine crops account for half of African agricultural production quantity and the majority of the region’s produced protein supply.