Agriculture under uncertain climate change predictions: land use options for Malawi’s smallholder farmers

Agriculture under uncertain climate change predictions: land use options for Malawi’s smallholder farmers

Climate change will have widespread and varied effects across the globe – increasing rainfall and flooding in some areas, decreasing rainfall and droughts in others. The average global temperature is set to increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century. For agricultural land-use policy makers, planning for this future is made more difficult because climate change scenarios for precipitation vary in their predictions, even for the same areas

For Malawi, climate predictions range from a severe decrease in rainfall to a marked increase. This uncertainty, especially in poor areas, means that land management strategies must be effective in improving livelihoods under both scenarios.
 
Key points in this Technical Report:
  • what’s going on? Uncertainty over the effects of climate change on precipitation for Malawi makes it difficult to create effective land use management policies
  • what does this mean? Economic models that predict the effects of climate change on rural livelihoods have to take into account that an effective policy is one that tackles both the possibilities of an increase or decrease in precipitation
  • how the economic model does this? In comparing the effectiveness of three different land use management options for the Shire catchment in Malawi, the model described in this report took into account likely wet and dry climate scenarios. In addition, a sensitivity analysis helped check which land use management option held up best if model assumptions regarding key variables, (e.g. global maize prices, erosion impacts, fertilizer use) were not to hold true in reality
  • what do results show? An agroforestry approach to land use management is likely to produce positive results for livelihoods, regardless of a decrease or increase in precipitation, and regardless of what happens to key variables. Also, the agroforestry approach is likely to perform better than a conservation agriculture approach, and much better than a business-as-usual approach
  • moving forward: A reconsideration of rural land use management policies for Malawi is necessary for local, national, and international policy makers so as to effectively prepare Malawian agriculture for potential climate change in the future
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