Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Vulnerability Assessment Methodologies for Adapting African Agriculture to Climate Change

Date Published: 
November 10, 2011

The agriculture sector is one of the most important economic drivers for the majority of countries in Africa, contributing on average 30% of the continent’s GDP and providing a livelihood to more than 70% of its people. Yet, agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa faces a number of difficult challenges. At a time when population increases require the world’s farmers to produce more food, rising income levels lead to higher per capita consumption, and rapid urbanization pushes more fertile arable land out of production, researchers are struggling to identify ways to increase productivity per hectare. These challenges are further compounded by climate-related stresses, as farming becomes less predictable due to increased variability in rains, higher overall temperatures, and storm events that are more frequent and/or more intense.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the future impacts of climate change on African agriculture include:

  • 75-250 million people facing severe water stress by 2020 and 350-600 million people by the 2050
  • Severely compromised agricultural production due to loss of land, shorter growing seasons, and more uncertainty about what and when to plant
  • A possible 50% reduction in yields from rain-fed crops by 2020 in some North African countries, and crop net revenues likely to fall by as much as 90% by 2100 in South Africa

These projected impacts, if realized, could lead to worsening of food insecurity in Africa and an increase in the number of people at risk from hunger, some of them chronically. In other words, vulnerability will increase. In the context of adaptation to climate change, vulnerability depends on sensitivity of the system to changes in climate and the adaptive capacity of the population.

This factsheet was developed as part of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Climate-Smart Agriculture Workshop. The workshop focused on approaches for effective program design of climate-smart agriculture in support of both country and regional CAADP investment plans. Climate-smart agriculture incorporates practices that increase productivity, efficiency, resilience, adaptive capacity, and mitigation potential of production systems.