Climate change and natural resources

Rationale: As world population continues to increase, estimated to reach 9 billion by 2050, coupled with increasing income among people in developing countries, increase in demand for food, energy and other natural resources, such as water, and land is inevitable. But resources needed for sustainable food security, such as fresh water, productive soils, key nutrients, and genetic diversity, are becoming increasingly scarce (Bereuter and Glickman, 2014) and climate change is making the choices more complicated.   There is scientific consensus that climate change, that is, a rise in mean global temperature and increasing frequency of extreme weather conditions, will have varying impacts between temperate and tropical regions by the year 2050.  With high confidence, IPCC (2007, 2013) projected that climate variability and change would severely compromise agricultural production, food availability, access and utilization (Wheeler and von Braun, 2014, Rosenzweig and Parry, 1994). Therefore, in the absence of effective strategies in response to climate change, global food insecurity, poverty, hunger, and malnutrition levels are likely to worsen. 

Although initially climate change might present an opportunity for a few farmers, in the long run, all farmers will experience declining crop and livestock productivity and it will become increasingly more challenging to manage the additional variability in production and markets (Lobell and Gourdji, 2012). A recent study based on climate modelling by Nelson et al 2013 concluded that global crop yields are likely to decline by an average of 17 percent while food prices will increase by 20 percent by the year 2050.  However, there will be some significant differences by crop, region, and crop and climate models (Thornton et al., 2009; Lobell et al., 2011).  With regards to Zambia, Wineman and Crawford (2014) estimates 7.5 percent and 11.4 percent maize yield declines resulting from climate change scenarios for 2050 relative to 2000 from the CCSM and Hadley models, respectively. Sub-Saharan Africa remains more vulnerable and less prepared to deal with shocks related to climate change because of the continent’s low adaptive capacity, high rates of poverty, poor infrastructure and the high dependence on rain-fed agriculture (Tschakert, 2007, Brooks et. al., 2005). 

Research Priorities: IAPRI’s climate change and natural resources thematic area aims to carry out research that will feed into the development of evidence-based agriculture, environment, and natural resource related policies in Zambia. Olson et al. (2014) predict that Zambia is most likely to experience continued rising temperatures, but with a very minimal decline in precipitation. The rising temperature will lead to increased evaporation, and thus even if precipitation will remain the same, moisture stress, as a result of rising temperatures, will present a challenge for agricultural development in Zambia. Furthermore, there is evidence both from meteorological records and farmers’ observation and experiences of highly variable and declining rainfall in Zambia (Mulenga and Wineman, 2014). It is therefore important that the country’s policies and strategies are designed to deal with these predicted changes.

Research priorities under this area will focus on understanding climate change/variability impacts, adaptation, and mitigation with a strong emphasis on smallholder agriculture. While the natural resources component will address issues pertaining to use of clean energy at household level, impact of charcoal production and consumption on the forest resource, and sustainable land and forestry management.  In addition, research will be done to understand the interaction between rural livelihoods and natural resources.