The negative consequences of climate change on agricultural production and productivity are with us and resolutions must be implemented to save West and Central Africa, said the Director General, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Dr Nteranya Sanginga.
Addressing national and international researchers attending a conference on Biotic stresses, climate change and agricultural production in Cotonou, Bénin, on Monday, Dr Sanginga noted that the emergence of agricultural pests such as the papaya mealybug was closely linked to climate change, and stressed that there was the need to go beyond rhetoric to action.
“Whatever recommendations we make at this meeting, let’s work towards implementing them,” he said.
The Director General pinpointed to agricultural research and the capacity development of adequate human resources as the critical tools needed to tackle the challenges posed by climate change. He cited the example of cassava pests (cassava mealybug) in which past research by IITA and partners had played a critical role in solving the problem and saving the crop from probable extinction in Africa.
The Interim Director General of AfricaRice, Dr Adama Traoré, pledged that his organization would support the implementation of the meeting recommendations, as they would go a long way in addressing agricultural productivity in the region.
Researchers at the conference said the impact of climate change on biodiversity linked to biotic stresses could have a deep impact on agricultural productivity.
For instance, studies suggest that climate change might adversely influence established biological control by curbing natural enemy–pest interactions. Also, extreme climatic events may affect the benefits provided by living things in the soil ecosystem such as endophytes, rhizobia, and mycorrhiza.
“All these interactions need to be properly assessed and documented to develop and deploy preemptive and adaptation strategies,” said Dr David Arodokoun, the Director General of the National Institute of Agricultural Research of Bénin (INRAB).
In West and Central Africa, most of the current studies targeting the impacts of climate change on agriculture have focused directly on productivity (i.e., crop yields), or indirectly, on livelihoods.
Dr Arodokoun said the regional meeting had brought together researchers working on biotic stresses linked to climate change affecting the region as a first step to take stock of the available human and infrastructural resources. This, he said, was a starting point for defining a common regional strategy for managing biotic stresses and biodiversity under changing climatic conditions.
The regional meeting attracted policymakers and national and international scientists working in the West and Central African region, and was attended by donors and IITA’s board of trustees.
Dr Yacoubou Toure, the Directeur de Cabinet du Ministre de Agriculture, declared the event open. He said that farmers in developing countries were vulnerable to the negative impact of climate change on agricultural production. He pledged his Government’s commitment to join efforts to develop and make mitigation options available to farmers.
Dr Manuele Tamo, IITA’s Insect Ecologist and Country Representative based in Cotonou, said the regional meeting sought to develop a regional strategy that would help member countries in dealing with the biotic stresses that are linked to climate change in the region.
The meeting was convened by IITA, INRAB, AfricaRice, Bioversity, CIRAD, and CORAF with donor support from the Swiss Development Cooperation.