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Publication | 7 November 2018

The effect of climate variation on agro-pastoral production in Africa

Global Food and Nutrition Security

Using national crop and livestock production records from 1961–2003 and satellite-derived data on pasture greenness from 1982–2003 we show that the productivity of crops, livestock, and pastures in Africa is predictably associated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation. The causal relations of these results are partly understandable through the associations between the atmospheric fluctuations and African rainfall. The range of the explained among-year variation in crop production in Africa as a whole corresponds to the nutritional requirements for ≈20 million people. Results suggest reduced African food production if the global climate changes toward more El Niño-like conditions, as most climate models predict. Maize production in southern Africa is most strongly affected by El Niño events. Management measures include annual changes in crop selection and storage strategies in response to El Niño Southern Oscillation-based and North Atlantic Oscillation-based predictions for the next growing season.