Scaling and Prioritizing Adaptation Actions in African Agriculture
Several interventions have been piloted and found successful in reducing the adverse impacts of climate risk on agricultural production and rural livelihoods in Africa. However, the extent of scale up and scale out is very limited. On the contrary, the adverse effect of climate change will be effectively reversed if, and only if, the adaptation actions are implemented at scale to cover wider areas and address vulnerable groups. Unless countries are able to scale up the best practices and invest to the extent that generates economies of scale, it is unlikely that we observe any meaningful resilience.
How much to scale up?
An important aspect of scaling is the size of investment required to reverse the economic damages of climate change and to build resilience, not only in financial terms but also in terms of physical activities. AKADEMIYA2063 has studied the amount of agricultural land that has to be covered by selected adaption options to reverse the economic loss of climate change in African agriculture in four selected case countries — Kenya, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal.
Figure 1 shows the extent of scale up needed to fully reverse the lost agricultural production and productivity due to climate change in the selected countries. For example, in order to fully recover the lost agricultural production in Mali, the 2018 level of soil and water conservation (SWC) practice has to be increased by 7%. In other words, the area covered by SWC in 2018 must be scaled up by 73%. Alternatively, it is possible to reverse the adverse impact of climate change if Mali can be able to increase the area under irrigation by 74%. This means that for the Malian agriculture to remain resilient and avoid significant reduction in agricultural gross domestic product (GDP), the country should be able to significantly increase its level of investment on scaling of existing adaption interventions. The interpretation applies to other countries, too.
How to prioritize actions?
Review of National Adaption Plans (NAPs) and related strategies indicates that it is practically unlikely to be effective in implementing and scaling all proposed actions, unless countries adopt a stringent prioritization approach. The proposed interventions are so diverse and have diverse benefits and investment requirements. Though all of them are proposed to build resilience and cope up with climate risks, their mechanisms of managing risks and co-benefits are different. Therefore, it is critically important to understand the co-benefits and risk management mechanisms of the adaptation options and prioritize them accordingly.
In order to help countries understand the pros and cons of the adaption options and exercise reasonable prioritization, we propose to classify the adaptation actions into seven adaptation pathways with similar co-benefits and risk management channel. This helps countries to easily prioritize investments with minimal data requirement.
The pathways are defined based on: 1) co-benefits generated other than adaptation in terms of mitigation and economic transformation and 2) the channel or mechanism of building resilience or managing risk in terms of sharing, absorbing and escaping risks. Table 1 shows the list of adaptation pathways, their co-benefits, risk management channels and examples of interventions in each pathway. Of the seven adaptation pathways, two of them produce additional mitigation benefits through carbon sequestration and reduction of methane emission. The one with carbon sequestration produces further benefits of generating income through carbon trading. The other two pathways, such as intensification and diversification of income, contribute to the much-needed economic transformation in Africa. The remaining three pathways (social transfer, risk transfer and climate service) are simply risk-management mechanisms with limited long-term strategic benefits. This doesn’t mean, however, that they are unimportant. The market-based, risk-sharing mechanisms could be more sustainable and less disruptive.
Table 1. Adaptation pathways and their co-benefits
|Examples of adaption action
|Risk management channel
|Intensification and sequestration
|Organic fertilizer, soil and water conservations, and afforestation
|Increased productivity, mitigation and finance
|Intensification and methane reduction
|Expanding small livestock and improved rice cultivation
|Increased productivity and mitigation
|Improved crop varieties, fertilizer, and irrigation
|Rural income diversification
|Agro-industrialization, employment and agribusiness
|Early warning and climate information
|Absorbing or escaping
Livestock insurance and saving
|Cash transfer, food transfer, social service and food reserve
|Solidarity and dignity
Therefore, countries may choose to give high priority for the intensification with carbon sequestration pathway due to several co-benefits, including: 1) increased productivity due to intensification, 2) risk absorption due to increased moisture and soil fertility, 3) contribution to mitigation and 4) generation of income through carbon trading. This option shall be followed by a pathway that intensifies agricultural production and reduces methane emission. It generates all the co-benefits, except generating income through carbon trading.
Intensification without mitigation contribution and income diversification options are important priorities, next to the ones contributing to mitigation. The other three pathways are simply risk management options without any significant contribution to agricultural transformation. Since ex ante preparedness through climate information helps farmers and households to adopt actions, either for absorbing or escaping risks, this pathway might be preferred more than other forms of risk management strategies.