Climate change intensifies heat and drought-caused food crisis in Africa
Millions of people across southern Africa face hunger and poverty in 2015-2016 due to widespread drought worsened by El Niño and climate change. Human-caused warming contributed substantially to the very warm 2015/16 El Niño sea surface temperatures, and this contribution likely reduced Southern African rainfall by approximately 24 percent. Runoff reductions were much larger, at 48 percent. These reductions accentuated natural El Niño impacts, and have contributed to substantial food crises.
South Africa, the continent’s largest maize producer, saw its driest year on record in 2015. Maize production in Zimbabwe in 2014–15 was 35 to 38 percent down on a five-year average due to drought. In countries like Malawi and Zimbabwe, small-scale farmers who are entirely dependent on rainfall will struggle to produce any crops this year. The impacts of El Niño are expected to last in southern Africa until 2017, affecting the food security of 29 million people.
Key crops at risk of annihilation in Africa
Climate change could make it impossible to grow staple crops in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa by the end of the century, according to one study. Up to 60 percent of bean-producing land and 30 percent of maize- and banana-producing areas are projected to become completely unviable, jeopardizing the food supply for tens of millions of people.
Farmers in these areas will likely need to transition to drought-resistant crops and change their agriculture practices within the next ten years to avoid the worst of the devastation. “Time is running out” to transform African agriculture, the study authors warn.