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Climate change and developing country agriculture: an overview of expected impacts, adaptation and mitigation challenges, and funding requirements

Publication date:
J. Keane
Type of publication:

Not only is the agricultural sector highly vulnerable to climate change, is it also one of the sectors most distorted and heavily influenced by a wide range of local, regional, national and international trade policies. The increased stress to the system brought about by climate change makes reform in global agricultural policies arguably even more important. This paper investigates the potential impact of climate change on agricultural production and assesses how producers may adapt, particularly in relation to new markets for agricultural products and services related to climate change mitigation efforts. Climate change can influence agricultural production in a number of ways which can be roughly divided into six categories.

Changes in atmospheric CO2
Extreme events
Climate-change-motivated greenhouse gas net-emissions reduction efforts

Based on a range of climate change scenarios and models, the paper presents the following findings:

around 11 per cent of arable land in developing countries could be affected by climate change, including a reduction of cereal production in up to 65 countries, and a loss of up to 16 per cent of GDP in some cases
some of the most dependent agricultural economies face an estimated loss of more than 50 per cent of their total agricultural output by 2080
countries that have a high dependence on agricultural output as a proportion of their GDP, and for which agricultural exports account for a high proportion of total agricultural output, are clearly the most vulnerable to climate change. Of these countries, the ones expected to experience the most revenue losses are: Malawi, Zimbabwe, Senegal, and Mali

The authors make the following recommendations for adaptation and mitigation options:

‘climate change proofing’ existing products and methods of production
diversifying into new products and methods of production
diversifying into new tradable services

Concluding remarks:

climate change will necessitate changes in what is produced, what is traded, and how it is traded, because the new conditions will make some old types of production impossible
new conventions and regulations such as requirements on standards and labelling (e.g., carbon labelling) will impose new costs and the need for new skills
there is scope for some countries to benefit significantly from the new sources of finance that may result from climate change mitigation efforts.