Climate and food production: understanding vulnerability from past trends in Africa's Sudan-Sahel: In Sustainability 2013, 5, 52-71
Just how influential is rainfall on agricultural production in the Sudan-Sahel of Africa? And, is there evidence that support for small-scale farming can reduce the vulnerability of crop yields to rainfall in these sensitive agro-ecological zones? These questions are explored based on a case study from Cameroon’s Sudan-Sahel region. Climate data for 20 years and crop production data for six major food crops for the same years are used to find patterns of correlation over this time period. Results show a distinction of three periods of climatic influence of agriculture: one period before 1989, another between 1990 and 1999 and the last from 2000 to 2004. The analysis reveals that, while important in setting the enabling biophysical environment for food crop cultivation, the influence of rainfall in agriculture can be diluted by proactive policies that support food production. Proactive policies also reduce the impact of agriculturally relevant climatic shocks, such as droughts on food crop yields over the time-series. These findings emphasize the extent of vulnerability of food crop production to rainfall variations among small-holder farmers in these agro-ecological zones and reinforce the call for the proactive engagement of relevant institutions and support services in assisting the efforts of small-scale food producers in Africa’s Sudan-Sahel. The implications of climate variability on agriculture are discussed within the context of food security with particular reference to Africa’s Sudan-Sahel.
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