How will climate change spatially affect agriculture production in Ethiopia? Case studies of important cereal crops

Nearly all of Ethiopia’s agriculture is dependent on rainfall, particularly the amount and seasonal occurrence. Future climate change predictions agree that changes in rainfall, temperature, and seasonality will impact Ethiopia with dramatic consequences. When, where, and how these changes will transpire has not been adequately addressed. The objective of our study was to model how projected climate change scenarios will spatially and temporally impact cereal production, a dietary staple for millions of Ethiopians.We used Maxent software fit with crop data collected from household surveys and bioclimatic variables from the WorldClim database to develop spatially explicit models of crop production in Ethiopia. Our results were extrapolated to three climate change projections (i.e., Canadian Centre for Climate Modeling and Analysis, Hadley Centre CoupledModel v3, and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization), each having two emission scenarios. Model evaluations indicated that our results had strong predictability for all four cereal crops with area under the curve values of 0.79, 0.81, 0.79, and 0.83 for teff, maize, sorghum, and barley, respectively. As expected, bioclimatic variables related to rainfall were the greatest predictors for all four cereal crops. All models showed similar decreasing spatial trends in cereal production. In addition, there were geographic shifts in land suitability which need to be accounted for when assessing overall vulnerability to climate change. The ability to adapt to climate change will be critical for Ethiopia’s agricultural system and food security. Spatially explicit models will be vital for developing early warning systems, adaptive strategies, and policy to minimize the negative impacts of climate change on food production.

-Paul Evangelista, Nicholas Young, Jonathan Burnett Climate Change 2013 119: 855-873.

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