Genesis reversed: Climate change impacts on agricultural and livelihood systems in mixed crop livestock systems of Africa

In the face of climate change, populations that depend on agricultural systems may have to adjust their production technologies and practices if they are to continue meeting the food and livelihood requirements that they currently derive from these agricultural systems. Adapting to and coping with a changed climate are not infinitely plastic and there are places where climate change may alter agro-ecological conditions beyond what households can deal with.  

Recent work points to the possibility of climate-induced livelihood transitions in the mixed crop-livestock rainfed arid-semiarid systems of Africa. These mixed systems cover over one million square kilometres of farmland in West, eastern and southern Africa. Crop failures are already quite common in many of these areas, which may become increasingly marginal for crop production. Under such circumstances, agropastoralists may alter the relative emphasis that they currently place on the crop and livestock components of the farming system in favour of livestock. This project seeks to test the hypothesis that there are hotspots where sedentary farmers may turn increasingly to livestock keeping in lieu of cropping. Such a transition from a sedentary to what could be a semi-nomadic mode of production would be antithetical to the usual evolution of agriculture, but it is plausible. The study involves surveying households in the prospective transition zones in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, understanding how households cope now and in the recent past with climate risk, and undertaking crop, livestock and household modelling to assess what the impacts may be on such households in the future. A report will be written that draws the work together and outlines the lessons that can be drawn, in relation to appropriate policy, institutional and investment options to cope with the attendant economic, social, environmental, and political impacts that such "reverse genesis" may bring about.