Our Research Impact of near-term climate change on water availability and food productivity in Africa

Principal Investigator

Elfatih Eltahir

  • Breene M. Kerr Professor (1951)
  • Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Elfatih Eltahir is the Breen M. Kerr Professor of Hydrology and Climate and Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He is a recipient of Kuwait Prize in Applied Science in 2000, elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in 2008, and recipient of Hydrologic Sciences Award of the American Geophysical Union in 2017. His work focuses on how shifts in land cover, land use, and climate impacts society through changes in the patterns of water availability, extreme weather, and spread of vector-borne diseases. His work utilizes numerical models to predict such impacts at regional scales.

Challenge:

How will near-term climate change impact water availability and rain-fed agriculture in the southern fringes of the Sahara Desert? How can stakeholders properly plan and adapt to these changes?

Research Strategy

  • Use regional and global climate models to determine future climate scenarios in order to evaluate climate mitigation and adaptation strategies for agricultural planning.
  • Evaluate the effect of rainfall and surface temperature on key food crops (sorghum, millet, sesame, and teff) using meteorological and agricultural data from Africa.

Project description

The risk to any society from climate change impacts stems not only from the vulnerability of the local community, but also from the nature and intensity of projected climate change impacts, which vary among different countries and regions. This project addresses the variability of climate change impacts in the context of Africa. The research team will investigate the risk to water availability and rain-fed agriculture in the southern fringes of the Sahara Desert from projected climate change in the near-term (2021-2050). The aim is to develop a better understanding of the pattern and intensity of changes in rainfall distribution, surface temperature, and the associated changes in food crops yield.  The goal is to inform sound climate change adaptation strategies in Africa and help prioritize sub-regions and economic sectors for policy intervention.  This project's approach draws on regional climate modeling using the MIT Regional Climate Model (MRCM), and combines it with an analysis of archived observations on climate variables such as rainfall and temperature and concurrent agricultural observations on yield of key food crops grown in Africa. The ultimate goal is to enable sound planning of climate change adaptation with regard to water availability and food production in this region of Africa.

Additional Details

Impact Areas

  • Water
  • Food
  • Climate & Sustainability

Research Themes

  • Sustainability & Adaptation
  • Soil Fertility & Crop Productivity
  • Modeling & Data Analytics
  • Equity & Access

Year Funded

  • 2021

Grant Type

  • Seed Grant

Status

  • Ongoing