Women storing grain in indoor woven granary or sacks.
Photo: T. Stathers

03.04.2013

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Climate change will continue to exert its influence not only on crop production, but also on the increasingly valuable harvest. This article shares highlights from the author’s recent review of post-harvest agriculture in changing climates. It has a particular focus on durable cereal crops in the smallholder context of sub-Saharan Africa, revealing important insights into the bearing of post-harvest agriculture on global concerns such as food security.

Global warming is bringing complex and diverse climate change and impacts in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA; see Box). The economies of, and livelihoods in, many SSA countries are based on smallholder rain-fed agriculture. Whilst agricultural production in many higher-latitude countries is initially likely to benefit from moderate global warming, in tropical regions where crops are already close to critical environmental thresholds, crop yields and areas suitable for growing them will decline. Studies suggest that by 2080, countries such as Tanzania and Zimbabwe could lose up to 30 per cent of their 1990 cereal yields (Parry et al., 2004). Declining yields are likely to trigger further agricultural expansion, deforestation, green house gas (GHG) emissions and subsequently global warming.

Anticipated climatic changes in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)

Projections suggest that by the year 2030, temperatures across SSA will have risen by about 1 °C compared to those of 1980–1999 (Lobell et al., 2008).

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