A shifting climate could mean trouble for one of Africa’s staple crops

A shifting climate could mean trouble for one of Africa’s staple crops

"One of the warnings from the new climate change report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, is food insecurity: It will be harder to grow many crops in parts of the world.

That includes staple crops like corn, wheat and rice. In Kenya, this could dramatically shift societal norms, where corn is life.  

“Almost everybody is growing maize [corn], everybody is consuming maize. It’s made into a very thick porridge for the dinner time and into a less thick porridge for the breakfast time,” said Bruce Campbell, director of the climate change and agriculture program at CGIAR, a global food research organization.  

“You can get a vision of what happens with any impact on maize if you go back to 2008 when something like 1 million people in rural areas, 4 million in urban areas, were food insecure.”

Corn prices shot up 60 percent leading to food riots. The social fabric of Kenya began to fray. That corn shortage was caused by failed short-term rains combined with previous harsh seasons. Global economic factors, such as fuel prices, also contributed to the price rise.

Campbell said as the climate warms, incidents like 2008 could become more regular in Kenya.

“Undoubtedly, one does have a vision going forward of price increases both progressively as well as many more spikes in relation to extreme events.”

Extreme events range from drought on the one hand to flash flooding on the other. As to when these changes could become the new normal, Campbell can’t say when exactly for sure. No one can.  But he thinks it could be much more difficult to grow corn in Kenya by 2050."

Read more from PRI The World