West Africa is one of the most affected regions by climate change due to its dependency on rain-fed agriculture. Agriculture is a mainstay for most countries and a potential way out of poverty for millions of small-scale farmers. Policies and strategies therefore need to effectively address climate change adaptation within the agriculture sector, so as to achieve the millennium development goals and promote sufficient food for all.
One major constraint when it comes to adaptation is poorly institutionalized communications efforts that can disseminate scientific information to ensure that developing country policy-making is based on evidence. With the increasing needs of science-based policies on climate change adaptation, strengthening the communication at the science–policy interface becomes critical.
Recognizing the gap in communication, knowledge and understanding by policy-makers of researchers associated processes and vice-versa, CCAFS West Africa Regional Program hosted a high-level policy session in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso at the end of October.
The aim was to exchange information and ideas on challenges and ways forward for better inclusive communication such as knowledge sharing and dialogue that are needed to promote climate-smart agriculture in the region.
Presentations during the high-level panel discussion highlighted the effects of climate change in West Africa and key challenges and opportunities to develop appropriate policies and technologies needed to reduce the vulnerability of agriculture to climate change.
Achieving sustainable food security in a world of growing population and changing diets is a major challenge under climate change. Successful mitigation and adaptation will entail changes in behavior, technology, institutions and food production systems. These changes cannot be achieved without improving interactions and communication among scientists, policy makers and civil society.
Some of the impacts of climate change in Africa, discussed during the meeting:
- 10 – 15 per cent of species likely to be lost in a two degree warmer Africa;
- Yields from rain-fed agriculture fall by as much as 20% by 2020;
- Many pests and diseases of crops, animals and humans could change;
Productivity in fisheries is likely to be reduced due to habitat displacement towards higher latitudes.
“Climate change will continue to threaten the livelihoods of billions of small-scale holders farmers in West Africa, and other part of the world, and will remain on the top of priorities of national, regional and international agendas,” said Chairman Thomas Rosswall in his concluding remarks.
Abdoulaye Moussa works as Science Officer for the West Africa Regional Program. Edited by Cecilia Schubert, Communications Assistant CCAFS. Follow CCAFS on Twitter for more updates on food security and climate change in the region.