By Philip Thornton
Since becoming available in June 2011, the on-line and stand-alone versions of the MarkSim GCM stochastic weather generator tool have been widely tested. A few problems were found, which have now been corrected. Both versions of the tool can be used to generate daily data that are characteristic of current conditions, based on the WorldClim dataset, an interpolated surface of weather station data from around the world mostly covering the years 1960-1990.
One version of the tool can be accessed here, in a Google Earth user interface. An alternative version of the tool, which can be run via user-written scripts or calling programmes can be accessed here, along with detailed documentation. Read more »
by Philip Thornton
Climate change is already having impacts on food systems in the tropics, and in the coming decades it will alter the regional distribution of hungry people. A new working paper from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) distils what is known about the likely impacts of climate change on the commodities and natural resources that make up the mandate of the CGIAR and its 15 Centres. The study, “Impacts of climate change on the agricultural and aquatic systems and natural resources within the CGIAR’s mandate”, contains summaries for 22 mandate commodities and for agroforestry, forests, and water. These summaries, written by scientists at each CGIAR centre, outline the importance of each commodity for food and nutrition security, its biological vulnerability to climate change, and the likely socio-economic vulnerability of the people affected. Read more »
Yesterday we launched a series of reports which look at the effectiveness of global climate models in predicting agricultural impacts in Africa and South Asia, with a particular emphasis on their ability to predict how climate change will affect key crops in those regions. The results are not surprising: we don't have perfect climate projections for agriculture, and in many cases, the data is quite weak. So what can we do about it?
In a live video seminar yesterday, lead authors Mark New from the University of Cape Town and Richard Washington from Oxford University, noted the weaknesses and emphasized that in some cases, a variety of models can be used together to overcome individual weaknesses. This approach, however, requires quite a lot of time and effort. On the bright side, the authors noted that more and more information is becoming available. The studies also highlight where models need further development, providing a useful guide for research investments. In case you missed it you can still watch a recording of the session.
The overarching message is that this uncertainty not an excuse for inaction. In response to yesterday's report, our colleagues at CIAT have published an insightful analysis of the role of uncertainty. Rather than being something that dogs climate science, uncertainty must be perceived as a basic feature and can even be a positive driver: Read more »
Last week, we shared the news that cattle herders in Kenya had received their first payments as part of an innovative livestock insurance scheme, partly set up by our partners the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Now, we share a farm-level view of the scheme, courtesy of Neil Palmer (republished from the CIAT blog).
What hits you when you get out of the truck at Ginda Village, in Northern Kenya, is the smell.
Farmer Haro Sora’s land is littered with the carcasses of cattle and donkeys that have keeled over following an intense, prolonged drought. A skull here; half a ribcage there. In some places there are whole animals slumped on the roadside. Some have died in the last few days, and the wind does little to clear the air.
Ginda, in Marsabit District, has been affected by the now infamous Horn of Africa drought, which triggered a food crisis affecting around 13 million people in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. After more than a year, the rains finally returned to Ginda a fortnight ago.
The fact that the food crisis in the Horn was the result of a livestock crisis has been well documented. A major pastoralist zone, when vegetation for grazing began to dry-up and livestock started to die, the knock-on effects on farmer livelihoods became strikingly clear.
Now, whatever your gut reaction to the principle of a financial institution selling insurance to already cash-strapped smallholder farmers to protect them against the risk of drought, there are 650 livestock keepers in Marsabit this year who are delighted to be receiving their first payouts. Read more »
Herders in Northern Kenya who have lost their cattle due to the intensive drought are getting their first payments as part of an innovative insurance program known as Index Based Livestock Insurance or IBLI. This was reported by the International Livestock Research Institute who developed this insurance programme together with Cornell University and the Index Insurance Innovation Initiative program at the University of California at Davis. Read more »
According to a recent article in The New Agriculturist pastoralism is the best way to cope with drought. This statement is based on the findings from the report ‘An Assessment of the response to the 2008-2009 drought in Kenya’, produced by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Based on interviews with pastoralists the researchers found that the best way for them to cope with famine was to ensure that they had access to grazing and watering areas. Pastoralism was also viewed as the most productive use of drylands in the Horn of Africa and increased mobility of pastoralists could prevent future food crisis in these areas. In other words, by allowing pastoralists to move to other, unused grazing areas, they can more easily mitigate livestock losses during a drought. This is becoming increasingly problematic however, the report states, since mobility is being reduced and impeded. The report recommends that interventions targeting the removal of restrictions to mobility and access should be considered as prime activities during preparedness. To read more about the ILRI report please click here. Read more »
This entry was written by Philip Thornton, CCAFS Theme Leader.
The MarkSim GCM stochastic weather generator tool has just been updated. It now includes data from two additional climate models that were part of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report. Users can now choose from a total of six individual climate models, or they can select the average climatology of this ensemble of models, for generating daily data for future conditions. The climate models come from Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Norway and Russia. Read more »
This article by Susan MacMillan was originally posted on the ILRI News blog
A new study out last week reveals future ‘hotspots’ of risk for hundreds of millions whose food problems are on a collision course with climate change. The scientists conducting the study warn that disaster looms for parts of Africa and all of India if chronic food insecurity converges with crop-wilting weather. They went on to say that Latin America is also vulnerable.
The red areas in the map above are food-insecure and intensively farmed regions that are highly exposed to a potential five per cent or greater reduction in the length of the growing season. Such a change over the next 40 years could significantly affect food yields and food access for 369 million people—many of them smallholder farmers—already living on the edge. This category includes almost all of India and significant parts of West Africa. While Latin America in general is viewed as having a ‘high capacity’ to cope with such shifts, there are millions of poor people living in this region who very dependent on local crop production to meet their nutritional needs (map credit: ILRI-CCAFS/Notenbaert). Read more »
The role played by livestock in contributing to greenhouse gas emissions has been covered in much mainstream media, with the UN urging a global move to a meat and dairy free diet. As the world's population increases, and more people become wealthy enough to afford to eat meat and dairy regularly, the impact of livestock on ecosystems is becoming more severe. Ernst von Weizsaecker, an environmental scientist who contributed to the UN study said:
"livestock now consumes much of the world's crops and by inference a great deal of freshwater, fertilisers and pesticides."
It's not likely that North Americans will go completely vegetarian, or that increasingly wealthy Chinese consumers will stop demanding meat; however, there are smaller scale opportunities for reducing the impact of livestock on the environment, and making it part of the solution to climate change.
Our colleagues at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) point to the opportunities for livestock farmers both to mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change, in the recently released WorldWatch "State of the World: Innovations that Nourish the Planet": Read more »
Livestock enterprises contribute substantially to the world’s greenhouse gases, largely through deforestation to make room for livestock grazing and feed crops, the methane ruminant animals give off, and the nitrous oxide emitted by manure. Estimates of this contribution vary widely (10-18% (PDF), or more, of global greenhouse-gas emissions) and are still being researched – it’s a complex question and hotly debated.
Whatever the exact figure, many worry these greenhouse-gas emissions will only grow due to increasing livestock production to meet the surging demand for meat and milk in developing countries.
But significant livestock-related greenhouse gas reductions could be quickly achieved in tropical countries by modifying production practices, which were recently detailed in a paper by myself and a colleague published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For example, switching to more nutritious pasture grasses, supplementing diets with even small amounts of crop residues or grains, restoring degraded grazing lands, planting trees that both trap carbon and produce leaves that cows can eat, and adopting more productive breeds can all be employed relatively quickly to reduce emissions.
Such changes could increase the amount of milk and meat produced by individual animals, thus reducing emissions because farmers would require fewer animals.
For example, in Latin America switching cows from natural grasslands to more nutritious sown pastures can increase daily milk production and weight gain by a factor of three. Fewer animals would then be needed to satisfy demand, while farmers’ incomes could be raised substantially. Read more »
CCAFS Coordinating Unit - University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rolighedsvej 21, DK-1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark, phone +45 35331046; Email ccafs [at] cgiar [dot] org, EAN 5790000279012
Lead Center - International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)