Smallholders with less than five acres produce much of the world’s food and are at the greatest risk of losing crops because of the changing environment.
By Tove Danovich (a journalist based in New York City)
Spoiler alert: Climate change is going to be rough on agriculture.
The consequences will be harder on some groups than others. Agriculture for Impact’s report, published last week, focuses on African smallholder farmers, one of the groups that will be particularly at risk. Unlike the United States, where only 1 percent of the population are farm operators and 15 percent of all jobs are related to agriculture via processing, wholesale, or other fields, agriculture is the biggest employer in most African countries. But these smallholder farms—those with less than five acres—account for 70 percent of global food production.
Even without climate change, Africa’s farmers are in a more geographically and structurally precarious position than those in developed countries. For example, the World Bank has projected an increased demand for food in sub-Saharan Africa of 60 percent. That need to increase production would be a challenge in a stable climate, but mean temperatures are predicted to rise “faster than the global average” in Africa. This will result in severely decreased grain crop yields—as much as 22 percent in the case of wheat—as the population goes up. Water restrictions caused by drought could be even more dire in Africa, where only 6 percent of cultivated land is irrigated—the lowest percentage in the world—according to an International Food Policy Research Institute report.