Increasing CSA evidence.

We’re working to increase the availability and use of CSA evidence. Vuna have commissioned and are publishing research on key topics that impact on climate change, the agriculture sector and the East and Southern African region.

Agricultural Drought and Climate Smart Agriculture

Project Ref Number: 6924-EL12

Active period and status:
Project implementation completed – July 2016 to December 2016

The main objective of this project was to examine the variability in estimates of precipitation trends in East and Southern Africa, and summarize the implications of available evidence for near term investments in climate smart agriculture. This aimed to clarify the contradiction between the inability of global circulation models to accurately predict precipitation trends, and the common view that major changes in rainfall patterns are already occurring.

Target Problem:
Agricultural drought is already a major risk in parts of Eastern Africa, and larger parts of Southern Africa. It is unclear, however, whether this risk is increasing as a result of climate change. The GCM modelling results for precipitation are inconsistent. At best, these suggest the likelihood of greater variability in rainfall levels and timing. There may also be greater intensity of rainfall resulting in a larger share of annual rainfall arriving in a smaller number of heavier showers. The models tend to suggest larger variability in the winter and spring seasons than in the main summer cropping season, but the statistical significance of these projections is unclear. In addition, while the relationship between the warming phase of the Southern Oscillation, known as El Niño, and drought in southern Africa, seems to have increased, scientists remain unable to prove the link between El Niños and climate change. Investors in, and practitioners of climate smart agriculture need a firmer understanding of current levels of agricultural drought risk, and possible changes in these risks, in order to better prioritize their efforts. This project attempts to consider whether farmers should be shifting land out of crop production because the likelihood of rainfall failure is increasing, or whether certain types of technological responses should be more actively promoted.

Summary approach:
This project supported the preparation of an Evidence and Learning Report based on the results of a review of climate change, El Niño and drought literature, and discussions with key informants contributing to these analyses. This analysis starts by examining the differences between meteorological drought, hydrological drought and agricultural drought, and the fact that rainfall has long been highly variable in large parts of East and Southern Africa. Drought is endemic. The study summarizes what modelling research can, and cannot, tell us about the changing probabilities of seasonal rainfall and drought. It then discusses the implications of these results for investments in climate smart agriculture.

Results / findings to date:
The development of an Evidence and Learning Report reviewing literature was completed internally in December 2016. A 2-page information brief was developed in May 2017. The Evidence and Learning Report and information brief will be broadly distributed and findings will be discussed in national and regional fora.