ARUSHA, Tanzania, Oct 1 – Economists have warned that Tanzania has just 20 years to adapt its agriculture to climate change or face major impacts that cascade through the country’s entire economy.
In the first study of its kind in East Africa published on Wednesday by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the researchers stressed that time was running out for Tanzania.
“Impacts of climate change on Tanzania’s agriculture sector will reduce the nation’s total GDP by 0.6 to one percent by 2030,” said the report.
However, unless meaningful adjustments are made in the sector this could rise to 68 percent by 2085 as greater climate shifts take hold and trigger a chain of impacts that spread through the economy like falling dominoes.
“If Tanzania’s farmers and farming practices do not adapt, the impacts of climate change will be extreme and they will ripple through the country’s entire economy as so many other sectors are dependent on agriculture,” economist Muyeye Chambwera, who co-authored the research said.
East African temperatures are expected to increase by two to four degrees Celsius by 2100. Already climatic patterns are becoming less predictable with more extreme droughts and floods.
“The next 20 years will be a period of great climatic variability but later in the century the climate could tip into a very different reality marked by severe climate change because of continued warming,” added Chambwera.
“We don’t know when this tipping point will come and that makes early action to adapt to climate change all the more urgent.”
Climate change will reduce yields of maize but could favour the production of other crops such as wheat, rice and barley.
The impact will hit the poorest Tanzanians first and hardest, they added.
Tanzanian policymakers have therefore been urged to focus immediately on helping farmers adjust to climate impacts by addressing both food production and marketing efficiencies.
These could include new supply chains for agricultural inputs, new middleman relationships and improved access to credit, insurance, technology and training.
“While much of this could be delivered by the private sector, experience elsewhere shows the positive livelihood impact from an added public policy stimulus,” says Chambwera.
“Replicating this policy approach in other low-income countries is essential if low-carbon growth and other development priorities are to become realities."