MLN outbreak. Rift Valley, Kenya: CIMMYT

Beans that beat the heat

By 2050, in the absence of genetic gains, global warming could reduce by half the area suitable for growing beans. Responding to this threat, CGIAR researchers have developed some 30 elite lines of beans that can still grow well in temperatures 4°C above the crop’s normal comfort zone – a promising adaptation strategy, especially for Central America and East Africa. These varieties would counter most (if not all) the negative impacts of climate change, with the capacity to cope with temperatures up to 30°C. This would limit the bean production area lost to climate change to about 5%. It could also expand production of the crop into new areas.

Scaling out drought-tolerant maize varieties 

Maize agriculture in Africa is almost entirely rainfed, depending on precipitation which is increasingly erratic. Drought-tolerant maize could offer African farmers significant benefits in increased grain harvests and reduced risk. CGIAR research, through the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa project, has developed over 200 resistant maize varieties. About 2.3 million ha were planted with these varieties in target countries during 2015. Engaging government officials in policy dialogue has helped to fast-track varietal releases, fostered competitive seed markets and more widespread access to quality seed at affordable prices. The result is that some 5.4 million households in 13 countries are now more resilient to climate change.

Index insurance safeguards farmers in India

Establishing well-designed agricultural insurance schemes not only enhances resilience to climatic shocks, it also offers farmers a way of overcoming any risk of investing in climate-smart technologies. In India, 12 million farmers are already insured through weather-index schemes, but many were dissatisfied because the assessment of the crop value – the index measurement – did not match actual losses. CGIAR scientists analyzed the current index insurance scheme in India and developed new triggers for making payments specific to different regions and crops, without increasing premiums and the government subsidy load. Maharashtra state has already adopted these new products, as has the Agricultural Insurance Company of India, providing improved rainfall risk coverage to nearly one million farmers.

Anticipating climate change – pest risk assessment 

Little is known about how climate change will affect the pests and diseases that are major threats to the food security and livelihoods of smallholders in developing countries. Through the CGIAR and partners Pest Risk Assessment project, researchers studied banana, cassava, potato and sweet potato farms at different altitudes in Burundi and Rwanda. Insect Life Cycle Modeling software revealed the role that altitude plays in pest distribution and intensity as temperatures rise. Researchers also determined how climate change will affect the transmission of viruses by insects. Pest risk assessments for key banana diseases, cassava brown streak disease and potato pests were developed to help the region’s governments, NGOs and the private sector to better assess, prepare for, and handle the risk of climate-driven crop pests and diseases.

Climate information by radio and SMS

CGIAR joined with the National Agency for Civil Aviation and Meteorology in Senegal to develop seasonal climate information services that help farmers adapt to climate change and improve resilience to climate shocks. Farmers were involved in every step of the process, helping meteorologists and other specialists to package and communicate climate information. The service transmits its information directly to rural radios, the Rural Development Departmental Services and farmers in rural areas via SMS. In addition, a seminar at the start of each rainy season informs farmers of major climate trends, tapping into their traditional knowledge to develop adaptation strategies.

Plans and policies for uncertain futures 

Making long-term plans for a country’s agricultural and climate adaptation strategies is a daunting prospect for many policymakers, especially in developing countries. CGIAR worked with the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute on the Future Scenarios project, which develops and tests plans and policies for uncertain futures. The work is now informing climate, agriculture and socio-economic development policies in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Colombia, Honduras, Tanzania and Uganda.