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What role can crop models play in supporting climate change adaptation decisions to enhance food security in Sub-Saharan Africa?

In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) efforts to achieve food security are challenged by poverty, low soil fertility, unequal global trade relationships, population growth, weak institutions and infrastructure, and future climate changes and variability. Crop models are the primary tools available to assess the impacts of climate change and other drivers on crop productivity, a key aspect of food security. This review examines their role and suitability for informing climate change adaptation decisions in the SSA context. Perception of climate change is rarely the only factor leading to changed farming practices, with labor availability, recent extreme climatic events (floods or droughts) and access to formal credit, constituting the main factors farmers respond to. Further, farmers’ socio-economic status constrains the adaptations they make in response to these drivers. Many crop modeling studies reviewed investigating climate change adaptation currently do not capture many of these drivers, adaptations nor constraints. However, a number of areas were identified where crop models could aid in adaptations decision-making. For instance, crop models can: test which changes farmers are making are most robust to future climate scenarios; be used as tools for experimentation in farmer organizations to build farmer capacity, minimize risk and empower farmers; be linked to economic, farm systems or livestock models to widen the scope of potential impacts, adaptations and farmer constraints considered, and to probe the interactions of cropping systems with other systems; and evaluate various indicators of resilience. Finally it is suggested that one of the greatest benefits of linking crop models across disciplines and in integrated assessment frameworks may be providing a platform to bring specialists and stakeholders from diverse backgrounds together to assess climate change adaptation options to enhance food security in SSA.

Webber Heidi, Gaiser Thomas, Ewert Frank
2014
Agricultural Systems