Climate Change Adaptation Strategies;Water Resources Management Options for Smallholder Farming Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa
Climate change, population growth, increasing water demand, overexploitation of natural resources and environmental degradation have significantly degraded the world’s freshwater resources. In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the number of countries where water demand outstrips available resources is increasing. Many African countries experience either water stress (less than 1,700 m3 per capita per annum) or water scarcity (less than 1,000 m3 per capita per annum) or both. Moreover, food insecurity remains endemic throughout much of Africa, with climatic factors such as rainfall variability a major cause. For example, in 2006, 25 African countries required food aid, largely due to recurring drought. Poverty and food insecurity are linked to low agricultural productivity aggravated by climate change and variability. As 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug stated, ‘Humankind in the 21st century will need to bring about a Blue Revolution to complement the Asian Green Revolution of the 20th century… New science and technology must lead the way.’ A key challenge for decision makers, policy makers, and development partners is to understand the strategies adopted by farmers and other stakeholders in their efforts to address climate change-induced water stress. Smallholder farmers are the most vulnerable to climate change, and they have no alternative but to adapt their livelihood systems to changing climatic conditions. Fortunately, several practical options for adaptation exist. All efforts should therefore be made to refine, augment and deploy them appropriately and urgently. Water resources management strategy is thus key to ensuring that agricultural production can withstand the stresses caused by climate change. It is against this background that the MDG Centre (East and Southern Africa), decided to embark on a thorough study to assess appropriate strategies for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The study identified improved agricultural water management (AWM) as one of the ‘best bets’ for adapting agricultural production to climate change and variability. The study concurred with Borlaug that a Blue Revolution must be designed to complement a Green Revolution in Africa. However, accomplishing this Blue Revolution is a significant challenge. At present, only about 6 percent of African agricultural land is under irrigation, and according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), by 2020 rainfed crop yields in some countries will decrease by half, with as many as 250 million Africans facing critical water stress. The impact of climate change on farmers and their livelihoods could be catastrophic. Climate Change Adaptation Strategies Options for Smallholder Farmers in SSA vi The study points out that current poor performance in terms of water-use efficiency, plus competition over diminishing water resources, suggests the need for investment in better water management systems. Also, where access to irrigation is limited, smallholder farmers need to develop water conservation and rainwater harvesting systems to maximize on-farm water management. Among the strategies recommended by the study is smallholder irrigation development. The study showed that the performance of smallholder irrigation schemes – in terms of improved water management, food security and income – is encouraging, with net earnings ranging between USD 200 and 1200 per month for single-crop enterprises in Kenya. Rainwater harvesting complements smallholder irrigation and enhances farmers’ profitability. Rainwater harvesting for supplemental irrigation, for example, yielded net profits of USD 150-600 per ha in Burkina Faso and USD 110-500 in Kenya. But despite evidence of good returns on investment, large-scale national programs on water management have not been realized. Smallholder AWM is emphasized for a number of reasons. The performance of large public irrigation schemes in Africa is associated with poor governance and insecure land tenure, leading to low farmer investment and exploitation by government agencies. This partly explains the low cost recovery, poor performance, low water use efficiency, poor crop yields, low water productivity and weak sustainability that typify public irrigation schemes. A key policy change would be to support increased investment in smallholder irrigation as opposed to large-scale irrigation projects. Apart from the obvious lower start-up cost and high economic impact, smallholder irrigation systems often have strong local community governance, are relatively free of political intervention, and have lower operation and maintenance costs. Water management is also improved by having a greater diversity of options for water sources, such as small streams, shallow wells, boreholes and rainwater storage. Other irrigation options also exist. These include surface irrigation methods (furrows and small basins), pressurized systems (sprinkler and both high- and low-head drip) and water lifting technologies (gravity, manual and pumps – motorized, wind-driven and solar). The rehabilitation and improvement of existing smallholder irrigation systems that have fallen into disarray provides another source of potential. For a number of reasons – inadequate management or technical skills, socio-political instability, inadequate funding for maintenance, land degradation – systems initiated by smallholders frequently fall into disuse. In SSA, an estimated two million hectares of land equipped Climate Change Adaptation Strategies Options for Smallholder Farmers in SSA vii for irrigation are unused. These lands could be developed along with another 13 million hectares with irrigation potential. Another management strategy is the upgrading of rainfed agriculture through integrated rainwater harvesting systems and complementary technologies such as low-cost pumps and water application methods, such as low-head drip irrigation kits. Rainwater harvesting systems include two broad categories: • In-situ soil moisture conservation – technologies that increase rainwater infiltration and storage in the soil for crop use • Run-off storage for supplemental irrigation using storage structures such as farm ponds, earth dams, water pans and underground tanks The realization of the African Green Revolution is threatened by climate change. While the recommended interventions may answer many of the needs for improved water management as an adaptation to climate change at the farm level, political and financial investment is a prerequisite. To realize the benefits of proposed interventions, necessary steps must be taken to ensure adoption, replication, up-scaling and sustainability. The study therefore also made it a point to identify the necessary steps to enhance adoption and sustainability of proposed AWM strategies. These include capacity building at various levels, research and technology development, appropriate policy and institutional reforms and the provision of farmers’ support services such as micro-credit, revolving grants, crop insurance, marketing infrastructure and value addition. It is envisaged that the study’s findings will form the basis of increased investment (including grants) to promote improved agriculture water management as a climate change adaptation for smallholder farmers in SSA. The report is divided into six chapters. Chapter 1 presents an overview and background of the problem, the study objectives and expected outputs. It also reflects on climate change and water resources for agriculture and provides a justification for focusing on smallholder farmers. Highlights from a gender perspective are also included, focusing on gender roles in AWM. Chapter 2 focuses on the study methodology, in particular data collection and analysis, as well as the scope of the study. Chapter 3 includes an assessment of current trends and past experience with particular focus on water resources and their utilization in Africa. A review of climate change adaptation strategies is presented, as well as an overview of current practices in terms of pilot projects, research agenda and governance interventions. The chapter Climate Change Adaptation Strategies Options for Smallholder Farmers in SSA viii concludes with a discussion of the challenges and constraints that must be addressed to increase the adoption of identified options. Chapter 4 discusses some of the feasible interventions identified in Chapter 3. It outlines a number of technical interventions and supporting instruments to enhance their implementation, such as crop diversification and insurance, information management and capacity building. Chapter 5 highlights governance issues, with emphasis on existing policy and institutional frameworks, necessary reforms to enhance adaptation to climate change, required farmers’ support services, and some of the key stakeholders and actors addressing, either directly or indirectly, climate change adaptation strategies in SSA. Chapter 6 summarizes the study’s conclusions and recommendations. The chapter underscores the fact that the effects of climate change are already identified, and that these impact negatively on most livelihood systems in SSA. It calls for increased attention and investment to enhance adaptation, especially by the vulnerable smallholder farmers. The recommendations focus on interventions to improve AWM and complementary strategies that can enhance their implementation and sustainability. Finally, it calls for increased investments to support the resilience of smallholder farmers to cope with climate change and variability.