KEL, December 3, 2015 — It’s lunch time and Fatou Yalindiaye’s family is gathered around a pot of cowpea stew. There’s more than enough for everyone—even for the neighbors who have dropped by for a visit. This isn’t something the 53-year-old farmer from Kel, Senegal, who has lived through harvest shortfalls, takes for granted.
“We used to produce 1 to 1.5 tons [of the older cowpea variety] but with a shorter rainy season that often comes late, we would harvest only about 800 kilograms,” Fatou recalls. “With the older varieties that we were using, we didn’t even bother adding fertilizer because the rains didn’t last long enough for anything to grow. There wasn’t even enough to feed the livestock.”
Helping West Africa’s farmers cope with climate change
Climate change has hit farmers hard. Shorter and more erratic rainy seasons and more frequent extreme weather events such as droughts and floods are already impacting harvests. Despite long days of back-breaking work, many farmers are no longer able to harvest enough for their families. And according to projections, climate change could cut yields even more--by as much as 25% in the future.
The World Bank-Funded West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP), which works to build a food system to feed every West African, is making agriculture more climate-smart across 13 West African countries. WAAPP has developed and distributed 160 climate-smart crop varieties, provided climate-smart technologies, and trained farmers on climate-smart practices.
WAAPP support to “national centers of specialization”-- research centers focused on commodities that are a country’s competitive advantage--has helped develop climate-smart varieties of crops such as rice (Mali), banana plantain (Cote d’Ivoire) and maize (Benin). Collaboration with a network of cooperatives and extension workers is helping deliver these new varieties to farmers across West Africa.
Farmers are also learning climate-smart techniques such as composting and agroforestry, and getting access to technologies like more efficient water harvesting systems. WAAPP assistance has helped around 5.7 million West African farmers be more productive, resilient, and deliver climate-smart outcomes such as lower greenhouse gas emissions—which is important since agriculture is also a major part of the climate problem and generates 19 to 29% of total greenhouse gas emissions.