Transitions in agropastoralist systems in East Africa
Climate-induced livelihood transitions in the African farming systems are increasingly likely. Mariana Rufino et al of the CGIAR’s Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) programme carried out fieldwork in 12 sites in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to understand recent changes in farming systems, and to test the hypothesis that sedentary agropastoralists in zones that may become warmer and drier may be forced to rely more of livestock than crops in the future. In the paper “Transitions in agro-pastoralist systems in East Africa: impacts on food security and poverty”, published in Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 179 (2013): 215–230, they estimated the contribution of crop and livestock activities to incomes, food security and poverty. Households were asked how to adapt farming in the future.
The authors found no direct evidence for the hypothesised extensification of production. Human diets have changed greatly in the last 40 years, as cropping has been taken up by more and more pastoralist households, even in marginal areas. Maize and legumes predominate, but some households are increasing their crop and diet diversity, particularly in areas with more than 800 mm annual rainfall. At all sites, people want more livestock. Food insecurity is common at all sites with an annual rainfall of 800 mm or less, and critical levels are seen at sites with <700 mm. Households are self-sufficient in securing adequate dietary energy from food production at sites with rainfall above 800 mm. Although many households have some knowledge about drought-tolerant crops, few cultivate millet, sorghum and cassava. Policies aimed at increasing the consumption of cassava, sorghum, millet and pigeon pea could be beneficial for future food security in the region. Vulnerability in the drier locations is already high, and policies should support safety nets and market and infrastructural development.