Climate change has condensed the cycles of devastating drought, and agriculture across Africa and the world is feeling the heat. Lack of rain in southern Africa delayed this year’s planting season by up to two months. Planted areas have shrunk, crops have wilted and food production in South Africa is already down 25%.
Meanwhile, far to the north in Ethiopia, the worst drought in 30 years threatens the food security of more than 10 million people, and in neighboring Somalia, around 3 million people have been hit by crop failures and food shortages. Across Africa and the globe, farmers need tools and technologies that will enable them to adapt to a changing climate.
In Africa, where 95% of farming is rain-fed, crop production is almost entirely dependent on the weather. Furthermore, millions of farmers in Africa remain uninformed of the scope of climate level changes they are experiencing. Without such information, they are unable to plan and adjust their farming practices to be sustainable for the long term.
But there are innovators who are changing this. In the Kenyan village of Mutomo, for example, one smallholder farmer armed with a camera and a phone took it upon himself to monitor weather extremities and their impact on his family and community. He was able to detect early indications of changing rainfall patterns that would likely affect the growing season. He is now using this knowledge to educate his community, and local farmers are planting drought-tolerant crop varieties and using low-cost, simple drip irrigation.
This approach of involving Africa’s millions of small farmers in collecting climate-related data is the best way to jumpstart the adaptation to climate change in Africa. The data from millions of farmers monitoring daily weather changes, rainfall levels and patterns and soil health will shed light on overall climate trends.