PABRA Climate Change Symposium
African bean producers and consumers deal with climatic variability on a daily basis, but are likely to need adaptive technologies and greater adaptive capacities to be able to deal with the impacts of a changing climate over the next few years and decades.
Rather than satisfy ourselves with these abstract goals, however, researchers from the Pan African Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) have just spent three days looking in detail at what changes in temperature, rainfall and extreme events in Africa will actually mean for bean production, storage, marketing and utilisation.
The symposium held in Arusha, Tanzania between the 29th and 31st March 2010, was organised and facilitated by Louise Sperling of CIAT. Participants hailed from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Cameroon representing the three regional networks of PABRA. The meeting also welcomed scientists from Wageningen University (WUR) in the Netherlands, the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of the University of Greenwich in the UK, and the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) of Victoria State Australia.
The meeting opened with three overview presentations focusing on adaptation strategies of smallholder farmers in Africa (Todd Crane and Adele Arendse – WUR), followed by a talk on climate change and women (Valerie Nelson – NRI), and then a presentation on the projections of climate change and the potential impacts on beans which highlighted the modeling work carried out in DAPA (Andrew Farrow – CIAT).
The physiological impact on bean production of increased temperatures, more (or less) rainfall and higher CO2 levels were expounded by Bob Redden (DPI), while PABRA pathologists and breeders (Clare Mukankusi, Robin Buruchara ,Rowland Chirwa and Paul Kimani aided and abetted by Matthew Abang) focused on the changes that could be expected on bean pests and diseases.
The first day concluded with talks on crop insurance as a potential response to climate change and the current socio-economic impacts of climatic stressors – particularly drought (Enid Katungi and Dymphina Andima).
On the second and third days teams reviewed and presented work already being conducted in the existing phase of PABRA (2009-2013) which has relevance for climate change mitigation and adaptation. It was clear that a lot of ongoing work already helps PABRA prepare for the new challenges associated with climate change, such as regional drought trials and seed systems research in marginal areas.DAPA’s modeling of changes in bean suitability (see image below) was cited in a number of presentations and seems to be the best use so far of projections on future temperature and rainfall on bean production. The idea of testing varietal technologies in multiple environments was endorsed at the meeting as well as pre-emptive breeding for potential future environments – taking advantage of the diversity of existing environments that are encountered in the PABRA partner countries.
Some presenters noted, however, that more temporal downscaling is required. This is because many of the biotic and abiotic stresses are related to specific events during the growing season, such as high night time temperatures, dry spells, heat-waves and water-logging.
Another area of interest where spatial analysis can play a role is in the visualization of climate change futures. CIAT has experience of developing these kinds of tools going back to the 1990’s and we can learn from the experiences of taking crop simulation models into the field in Zimbabwe.
We will use the results of the discussions which followed the presentations and a SWOT analysis to develop a strategy for incorporating climate change in PABRA’s current 5 year framework as well as future research phases. Watch this space!