Evaluating Climate Adaptation Options in African Agriculture


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Principal Investigator
  • Gloria and Richard Kushel Director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment
  • Professor, Earth System Science
  • William Wrigley Fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment
  • Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
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Postdoctoral scholar
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Senior Fellow
  • William Wrigley Professor of Earth System Science
  • Senior Fellow, Stanford Woods Institute and Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
  • Senior Fellow and Founding Director, Center on Food Security and the Environment

FSE's previous Rockefeller project on "Prioritizing Investments in Food Security under a Changing Climate" pursued several research directions in an effort to better characterize the risks that climate change poses to agriculture in Africa. Among the lessons from the project were that climate change poses a substantial impediment to agricultural progress in Africa, that maize and Southern Africa are particularly vulnerable, and that inadequate soil moisture can substantially aggravate the effects of heat.

Although several questions remain on the question of risks and adaptation needs, we are gradually shifting our research program to evaluate priorities from the perspective of adaptation opportunities. What works and what doesn't? Or more specifically, what are the most effective ways to deal with the most serious threats that climate change poses? And given the type and scale of current efforts at adaptation, is Africa on a trajectory to effectively adapt to climate change?

A key lesson from prior work is that climate change is already underway and having non-trivial effects on agriculture, even today. From a research perspective, this increases the urgency of finding effective adaptations but also provides an opportunity to learn from ongoing attempts to adapt production systems.

The research project includes four main components:

  1. Evaluating the adaptation potential for new crop varieties.
  2. Evaluating the adaptation potential of small-scale irrigation.
  3. Evaluating a suite of adaptation options in the Sahel.
  4. Characterizing ongoing and proposed adaptation activities.