The Effect of Climate Change on Agriculture and Conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa Economic development, Environmental policy
Author Munsu Kang, Minji Jeong, and Kyu Tae Park Series 21-05 Language Korean Date 2021.12.30
As the economy grew rapidly after industrialization, these changes have led to higher temperatures and precipitation uncertainty, and climate change has become a task that the international community must solve together. The sixth assessment report (2021) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that the Earth’s temperature has increased by more than 1°C during the 21st century alone compared to the industrialization period (1850-1900). The report also warned that mankind will lose the ability to predict weather if global responses to climate change are hindered. Particularly in Sub-Saharan African countries, problems such as food insecurity, water scarcity, etc. will arise because of climate change. Chronic declines in agricultural productivity and water resources have already begun to occur, and conflict has increased as common resources have become scarce.
Agricultural activities in Sub-Saharan Africa are the main generators income and food security, and in many countries in this region, more than 50% of the people are engaged in agriculture. However, higher temperatures and lower precipitation are leading to a decline in agricultural productivity, and farmers are more likely to experience agricultural failure because they often lack climate adaptation skills. Schlenker and Lobell (2010) predicted that climate change would affect a decline in the productivity of major crops, such as maize, millet, sorghum, and groundnuts, in Africa. Decreases in agricultural productivity could lead to increased agricultural prices and a food security crisis, especially for vulnerable groups, if government-level food supply is lacking. Bellemare (2015) found that soaring agricultural prices caused instability, indicating that responding to climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa could lead to peace in the region, a benefit beyond agricultural productivity.
This study demonstrated the effect of climate change on agricultural productivity and conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa. Climate change can affect conflict in various ways. First, as mentioned previously, decreased agricultural productivity promotes an increase in food prices, which can lead to conflicts because of increased poverty. Second, when a natural disaster occurs and the production infrastructure collapses, local residents migrate on a large scale, resulting in conflicts between migrants and natives. Third, water shortages caused by droughts can reduce pasture area, and conflicts arise when pastoralists invade farmers’ land. Although conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa have often been triggered by political, religious, and ethnic issues, this study examined the policy implications of higher temperatures and lower precipitation by examining how climate change relates to conflicts.
Chapter 2 examines climate change trends and the Official Development Assistance (ODA) status of climate change adaptations made by major donor countries. To do so, we used Climate Hazards Center InfraRed Temperature with Station (CHIRTS) and Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station data (CHIRPS) published by the UC Santa Barbara Climate Hazards Center. In the late 1960s, the average annual temperature in Sub-Saharan Africa was 24°C, but in just 50 years, the temperature increased by more than 1°C, exceeding 25°C in 2010. Temperature increases in Sudan, the Central Africa Republic, and South Sudan, located near the Sahara Desert, were higher than in other regions. Although West Africa did not see a significant increase in temperature, the average temperature exceeded 27.5°C, and the region is considered more vulnerable to temperature increases than other regions. In addition, the number of days of annual heat waves has continuously increased in West Africa. From 1950 to 2017, the annual average precipitation for African countries decreased by more than 100 mm, from 1,180 mm to 1,048 mm, and West Africa and Central Africa showed a particularly rapid decrease. One concern is that annual precipitation volatility has increased, and as this happens, rainfall prediction weakens and farmers miss sowing times, leading to reduced agriculture production. Therefore, this pattern indicates that the climate of Sub-Saharan Africa is seeing mid- and long-term changes.
In 2001, the international community began discussions on climate change adaptation at the seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) in Marrakesh, Morocco. The Marrakesh Accords contained measures to support developing countries, the least developed countries, and Small Island Developing States, which are particularly vulnerable to climate change. In 2006, the action plan was embodied through the Nairobi Work Program (NWP). The international community has proposed climate change action as the 13th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), but as the IPCC (2019) states, a plan to achieve climate change goals could increase the number of poor people because it clashes with the plan to achieve food security and poverty goals, which is the SDG 2. At the continent level, the Africa Climate Change Strategy 2020 agreed to build climate resilience in Africa.
Because the African continent produces very little carbon emission, except for South Africa, and adaptation to climate change is recognized as a significant issue, the international community is proposing that African countries be in line with climate change adaptation rather than mitigation. The international community provides enormous adaptation support for agriculture production sectors and infrastructure and services related to water supply and hygiene. In the short term, food aid to areas suffering from climate crisis accounts for more than 17% of the total contributions worldwide to climate change adaptation. South Korea has also increased its adaptation aid for the agricultural education and training sector in Sub-Saharan Africa, but the aspect of climate adaptation South Korea is most interested in for that region is water supply services. Regarding Sub-Saharan Africa, the scale of support for climate adaptation is much larger than that for climate mitigation, and it is likely to increase in the future.
In Chapter 3, we discuss about the effect of climate change on agricultural productivity in African countries, using agricultural productivity data by country from both the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The largest crops produced in Sub-Saharan Africa include maize, sorghum, and millet, and rice production continues to increase. The demand for cassava, a root crop, is high, and in terms of cultivation area, it is the fourth most cultivated crop in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using scenario analysis, we found that when the maximum temperature increases by 1℃, the maize yield will decrease by about 7%. When the maximum temperature increases by 2°C and 4°C, the maize yield will decrease by 13% and 26%, respectively. The millet yield also decreases with an increase in temperature, and the rice yield varies depending on regional characteristics, but the yield increases slightly.
Regarding regions, maize productivity is expected to decrease significantly in West and East Africa because of the high average temperatures in those regions. Maize is vulnerable to high temperatures, and in countries with maize as the staple food, adaptation strategies should be drawn up as soon as possible. The rice yield is expected to increase when temperatures increase, especially in central and eastern Africa, but in West Africa, which consumes a lot of rice, it is expected to vary greatly from country to country, even though no significant difference exists in average rice productivity. Rippke et al. (2016) predicted when alternative crops should be considered by regions as the temperature increases, indicating that beans and maize are more likely to be replaced by other crops. Also, in West Africa, bananas and yams will be replaced by other crops because of the difficulty of production.
Chapter 4 examines the effects of climate change on conflict in Africa. In the beginning, we show the distribution of four types of conflicts: battles, attacks on civilians, nonviolent protests, and riots. Four countries with much conflict are Somalia, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Africa, but the form and pattern of conflicts vary from country to country. In addition, countries with increased conflicts in the 2010s include Sudan, Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Angola, indicating that the conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa are not characteristic of a specific region. The frequency of battles and attacks on civilians has decreased significantly, but nonviolent protests and riots have increased in urban areas. In this study, correlations were identified between conflicts and the annual average temperature, and it was found that conflicts were more frequent in areas with higher temperatures. However, it was not determined whether natural disasters, such as droughts and floods, were caused by the increased frequency of conflicts. Because political, religious, and ethnic hegemony played an important role in the outbreak of conflict in Africa, it is difficult to argue that climate change directly affected the conflict. However, it is worth noting that civilian conflicts are on the rise, including conflicts between farmers and nomads in Nigeria, Sudan Darfur, Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, and conflicts between migrants and native residents.
The second half of Chapter 4 contains the analysis results regarding the effect of climate change on conflict. It was found that the average temperature and the trend of battles and attacks on civilians had an inverted U-shaped nonlinear relationship. As the temperature increased, the frequency of battles and attacks on civilians increased, and when the temperature exceeded a certain point, the frequency of battles and attacks on civilians decreased. In contrast, protests and riots declined as warm temperature conditions continued, and they increased from then on when a certain temperature threshold was exceeded. It can be interpreted that increased temperatures can trigger conflicts between farmers and nomads, and conflicts between natives and migrants, and increased economic loss and competition for limited resources can lead to protests against the government. In this study, neither increases nor decreases in precipitation or volatility were statistically significant regarding conflicts.
Chapter 5 derives the implications of South Korea’s cooperation in responding to climate change in Africa, according to the analysis results of the effect of climate change on agricultural productivity and conflict. South Korea has been increasing the scale of green ODA related to climate adaptation and recently announced a strategy to further expand green ODA. However, regarding the adaptation strategy for the agricultural sector, the IPCC (2019) warned that the potential effects may be different for each strategy. Therefore, in this study, suggestions were made that focused on fields with high potential effects and high local demand when introducing climate adaptation strategies.
First, because the risk to the agricultural sector is increasing from climate change, index-based insurance system support was proposed to protect farmers experiencing agricultural failure. Index-based insurance is in higher demand in developing countries than in developed countries that operate crop accident insurance, an index-type insurance that compensates for losses from rainfall or temperature levels. In the case of African countries, no crop accident insurance market exists, so farmers have to deal with the damage caused by climate change. To alleviate this problem, a social safety net for farmers must be established, and index-based insurance could be an alternative.
Second, it is necessary to establish a support strategy that develops a water-energy-food nexus. South Korea has provided much support for comprehensive rural development projects in terms of regional development strategies, and few cases exist of integrated approaches encompassing a water-energy-food nexus in the field of climate adaptation. To expand green ODA and support climate change adaptation, the demand for a nexus approach that encompasses water-energy-food is expected to grow.
Third, R&D cooperation should be further strengthened to improve seed variety and the agricultural value chain. Although South Korea’s Rural Development Administration (RDA) represents this interest, additional cooperation with international organizations and agricultural research institutes in Africa will be needed to improve maize seeds and crops that Korea has a comparative advantage in, such as rice.
Fourth, the importance of technological cooperation, such as disaster warning systems and climate-smart agriculture, is increasing, and this type of cooperation between Korea and African countries needs to be more active in expanding green ODA. To build peace in Africa, it is necessary to pay more attention to cooperating to reduce conflict and promote conflict arbitration.
Climate change is affecting aspects of basic development in Sub- Saharan Africa, such as quality of life, poverty, and food security. Active cooperation from the international community is required to adapt to climate change, and Korea also needs to make green ODA cooperation more effective in alleviating climate conflicts in Africa and preventing decreased agricultural productivity.
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