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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in the Kenyan Coffee Sector

We have just finished an study on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in the Kenyan Coffee Sector for Sangana Commodities Ltd., with the support of The German Technical Cooperation (GTZ). In this study, CIAT’s DAPA elaborated future climate scenarios to investigate the impact of climate change on coffee producing regions in Kenya. The study aimed to answer critical questions for the whole coffee supply chain:

  • Where will Kenyans be able to grow coffee in the future?
  • Where will coffee production be significantly affected, at the point of not being able to grow coffee anymore?
  • Where can coffee still grow with adapted management? and what this management should be?
  • What are the critical factors to manage?

We applied a method based on the combination of current climate data from WorldClim with future climate change predictions from different Global Circulation Models (GCMs) for 2020s and 2050s. Future climate data from the IPCC data portal were downscaled using a spline interpolation algorithm. These data, along with evidence data collected by GPS by local partners in Kenya, were then used as input to Maxent, a crop niche model to predict the probability distribution of maximum entropy.

In Kenya, total annual  rainfall could increase from 1405 to 1575 mm and the yearly average temperature will increase by 2.3 °C by 2050 according to the A2 SRES emissions scenario and 18 downscaled GCMs. These changes could result in shifts in coffee production and in a substantial reduction in quality if no adaptation strategies are adopted at the proper times.

Suitable areas  for coffee production in Kenya could move upwards in the altitudinal gradient. Areas that retain some suitability will see decreases to between 60 and 70%, compared to today’s suitability. Increasing altitude compensates for the increase in temperature: The optimum coffee-producing zone is currently at an altitude between 1400 and 1600 masl and will, by 2050, increase to an altitude between 1600 and 1800 masl. Compared with today, by 2050 areas at altitudes between 1000 and 1400 masl will suffer the highest decrease in suitability and the areas around 2000 masl the highest increase in suitability.

Results indicate that the change in suitability as climate change occurs is largely site-specific. While some areas might become unsuitable for coffee, and farmers will need to identify alternative crops, there will be areas that remain suitable for coffee, only requiring adjustments in management practices to maintain the stability of coffee production. Nevertheless, there are areas that could become suitable by 2020s and 2050s, where currently no coffee production exists.  These areas will require strategic investments to enable them to develop environmentally sustainable coffee production. Local experts and communities need to be made aware of the results of this study and the likely effects on livelihoods.

Different adaptation strategies comprise the Kenyan Coffee Adaptation Road Map. These can be grouped in:

  • Identification of alternative crops
  • Adaptation of agronomic management such as shade, varieties, irrigation, etc.
  • Strategic planning for areas with new potential for coffee production.

Climate change brings not only bad news but also lots of potential for new areas and underutilized crops. Winners will be those who are prepared for change and know how to properly respond to such changes.

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