Adaptation for crop agriculture to climate change in Cameroon: Turning on the heat
t The Cameroonian agricultural sector, a critical part of the local ecosystem, is potentially vulnerable to climate change raising concerns about food security in the country’s future. Adaptations policies may be able to mitigate some of this vulnerability. This article investigates and addresses the issue of selected adaptation options within the context of Cameroonian food production. A methodology is applied where transient diagnostics of two atmosphere–ocean general circulation models, the NASA/Goddard Institute GISS and the British HadCM3, are coupled to a cropping system simulation model (CropSyst) to simulate current and future (2020, 2080) crop yields for selected key crops (bambara nut, groundnut, maize, sorghum, and soybean) in eight agricultural regions of Cameroon. Our results show that for the future, substantial yield increases are estimated for bambara groundnut, soybean and groundnut, while little or no change or even decreases for maize and sorghum yields, varying according to the climate scenario and the agricultural region investigated. Taking the “no regrets” principle into consideration, we explore the advantages of specific adaptation strategies specifically for three crops viz. maize, sorghum and bambara groundnut, under GISS A2 and B2 marker scenarios only. Changing sowing dates may be ineffective in counteracting adverse climatic effects because of the narrow rainfall band that strictly determines the timing of farm operations in Cameroon. In contrast, the possibility of developing later maturing new cultivars proved to be extremely effective in offsetting adverse impacts, giving the highest increases in productivity under different scenario projections without management changes. For example, under climate change scenario GISS A2 2080, a 14.6% reduction in maize yield was converted to a 32.1% increase; a 39.9% decrease in sorghum yield was converted to a 17.6% increase, and for bambara groundnut (an under-researched and underutilised African legume), yields were almost trebled (37.1% increase above that for sowing date alone (12.9%)) due to increase length of growing period and the positive effects of higher CO2 concentrations. These results may better inform wider studies and development strategies on sustainable agriculture in the area by providing an indication as to the potential direction in shifts in production capabilities. Our approach highlights the benefit of using models as tools to investigate potential climate change impacts, where results can supplement existing knowledge. The results provide useful guidance and motivation to public authorities and development agencies interested in food security issues in Cameroon and elsewhere.