Climate change adaptation in West Africa needs to be driven by investments in agriculture

Also available in Français

A new study finds that strong economic development in West Africa can increase food security and agricultural development, but low investment in agriculture will worsen the negative effects of climate change on agriculture.

It may not be possible to see into the future, but envisioning certain possibilities, or scenarios, can help planners and decision-makers see where things might be heading and plan accordingly.

In West Africa, a multi-stakeholder process of developing a set of future scenarios has been spearheaded by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) scenarios team, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute (ECI), and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). A new article published in the journal Global Environmental Change highlights how the scenarios were combined with shared socio-economic pathways (SSPs) to quantify and compare them.

The paper is described in more detail on IIASA’s blog: Investment key in adapting to climate change in West Africa

Read more about the specific West African scenarios: Planning under uncertainty: the development of socio-economic scenarios for West Africa

In some ways, West Africa is at the mercy of changes in the rest of the world—there is not much that people can do to stop global change on a local level. Our study shows that indeed, socioeconomic development and climate change in the rest of the world will affect West Africa. But that doesn’t mean that policymakers are powerless to avoid the impacts,” says Amanda Palazzo, Resercher at IIASA. “We found that food security in the region could improve even under the threat of climate change if the region takes a coordinated and long-term approach to investment and development.”

The scenarios process is used by CCAFS and its partners in other regions as well. In Costa Rica, the development of the country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) was guided by the scenario process. Scenarios workshops in Southeast Asia helped craft several different policy engagements in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Policymakers in Uganda and Tanzania have also recognized the benefits of using the scenarios approach.

The results have been just as useful in West Africa. As reported by IIASA:

The scenarios have already proved useful to policymakers because they offer multiple, challenging future worlds in which they can test draft plans and policies. “This is quite unique. Often, the process ends after stakeholders and modelers finish envisioning scenarios through words and numbers. However, we design processes that allow policymakers to identify actions that are necessary to avoid potential problems or actions to take that have a good chance of yielding desirable results in all potential futures,” says Joost Vervoort, the scenarios officer for CCAFS and a senior researcher at the ECI, a study co-author.

CCAFS is committed to continuing the co-development of policies and research through use of the scenarios approach in the coming years. There will be a shift to focus more specifically on food and nutrition security within this work, so stay tuned for more updates as these developments progress.

Download the article: Palazzo A, Vervoort JM, Mason-D’Croz D, Rutting L, Havlik P, Islam S, Bayala J, Valin H, et al. (2017). Linking regional stakeholder scenarios and shared socioeconomic pathways: Quantified West African food and climate futures in a global context. Global Environmental Change.