Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture

Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture No. 3/10

Global climate change and vulnerability of African agriculture:
implications for resilience and sustained productive capacity

Ernest L. Molua
University of Buea, Cameroon

James Benhin,
University of Plymouth, UK

Jane Kabubo-Mariara,
University of Nairobi, Kenya

Mathieu Ouedraogo,
Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles, Burkina Faso

Samia El-Marsafawy
Soil, Water and Environment Research Institute, Cairo, Egypt


Despite noticeable improvements in recent socio-economic performance in Africa, variations exist across countries and performance is constrained by plethora of factors that inhibit the attainment of Africa’s optimum production potential. Changing climate and environmental factors have contributed to increased transactions costs, lower productivity of factors of production, increased bottlenecks in the production process and investment challenges, especially for small and medium scale farmers in varying degrees across the continent. This paper reviews the impact of climate change on farming activities in Africa. Four countries across the continent are studied, viz. Burkina Faso, Egypt, Kenya and South Africa. We examine how long-term profitability of 4,000 farms vary with local climate, such as temperature and precipitation. To better ascertain the impact of climate variables, the marginal impacts of unit changes in temperatures and precipitation on crop farming activities are studied. Using selected climate scenarios, predictions are made on the extent to which projected climate changes will affect net revenues by the year 2050 and 2100. The findings suggest that climate affects agricultural returns in the four countries. The results further show that there is a non-linear relationship between temperature and crop revenue on the one hand and between precipitation and crop revenue on the other. Overall, the temperature elasticity suggests that global warming is harmful for agriculture across all the countries. These have profound implications for the policy requirements to address the productive capacity and resilience of the agricultural sector. Effort will be required to enhance adaptation at farm, regional and national levels. Policy adjustments will in addition require increased liberalization of the financial system and an implementation of agriculture civil service reforms for better performance of the extension service. This may have further implications for state budgeting and agriculture sector expenditures which will without doubt require new shifts.

Keywords: Africa, climate change, agriculture, vulnerability, resilience, productive capacity

JEL: C32, D81, Q11

Vol. 49 (2010), No. 3: 183-211