As a result of global warming, the planet’s climate is changing and its effect is being felt the world over. And one of the most important parameters of climate is rainfall.
Just as there is a direct relationship between climate and agriculture, so is there one between rainfall and agriculture. When rainfall patterns change, its effects are directly felt on cropping patterns worldwide.
Again, as a result of the depletion of the ozone layer, there will be more heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, which means the wet regions would get wetter and the dry regions would get drier.
So, how are these predicted changes in rainfall patterns going to affect food production? An important aspect to be understood regarding the relationship between rainfall and agriculture is that rainfall is the major factor in the growth and production of food crops, both at the germination and fruit development stage.
But with a change in the world’s climate, temperatures will rise and rainfall will increase in some places. In other places, rainfall will decrease. It is predicted that phenomena such as coastal flooding will reduce the amount of land available for agriculture. Farmers are already finding it difficult to cope with these environmental changes, as almost all crops are season-dependent and rainfall-dependent.
Currently, a large number of sub-Saharan African staple food production is under direct rainfed agriculture. And in those parts of the world where water availability is set to increase due to higher rainfall, there would not be much of a problem. This water can be stored efficiently through check dams, bunds, ponds and reservoirs.
It will help irrigation in the surrounding areas, and increase crop production. Unfortunately, a good proportion of this excess rainfall comes with hurricanes and floods, doing more damage than good. This is what happened in 2009 in the Philippines, when two back-to-back typhoons unleashed heavy rains.
Many farmers in the Philippines lack post-harvest storage and drying facilities, and spread their unhusked grains on concrete streets to dry in the sun. Due to this, the grain was of poorer quality and fetched lower prices. To add to it, the damage and excess rain made it impossible for them to plant the next crop.
Hurricanes like El Nino provide another example of how agricultural production patterns and food security is impacted. In Southern Africa, it severely weakened crop prospects, triggering a cut in wheat production. In India, following a poor monsoon, the area of wheat crops was cut too. However, its effect is much less than in southern Africa because India holds enormous volumes of wheat and rice stock.
Climate change being a continuous and long-term process, its effects and solutions are also time and effort-consuming. Agricultural adaptation options for this can be grouped as technological developments, government programmes, farm production practices and farm financial management.
Agricultural policies and investments need to be more strategic in Africa where most of the world’s poor communities live, and where there is a large yield gap in rain-fed agriculture.
As we have seen, the two main changes in patterns of rainfall include high and low rainfall. There seems to be no solution to the phenomenon of too much rainfall at the end of the crop cycle, which causes destruction. Rainfall, as we know, is an uncontrollable phenomenon.
Despite it all, one thing remains certain; we cannot afford lacklustre approaches to this problem. We need decisive and practical solutions to it.