Richard Schiffman writes: [A]s I found out in east Africa last month, the future is already here for too many of the world’s farmers. In Tanzania, the twice yearly seasonal rains upon which so many growers depend no longer come on time – and they’re sporadic, drenching downpours at that, alternating with prolonged dry spells. Heat spikes have also been withering maize crop, and wells and streams are increasingly drying up.
The area where Dephath Omondi farms in southern Kenya looks lush, with emerald maize fields bordered by towering acacias. But he tells me that appearances are deceptive.
Twenty-five years ago the weather here was predictable – the long rains started mid-March to mid-May, then the short rains started in late August, early September. In the last decade, these rains never come on time. We have had floods and week upon week, with no rain at all. Farmers are confused about when and what to plant. It is all very worrying.
Similar disruptions are already challenging farmers worldwide. In Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, rural people are losing ground as higher sea levels turn rivers too salty to grow rice. In Nicaragua, rising temperatures are spreading “coffee rust fungus”, a disease which is killing thousands of trees and may render 80% of its the nation’s coffee-growing areas unusable by 2050. And in the central Philippines, coconut farmers are struggling to recover from November’s Typhoon Haiyan, which badly damaged or tore out an estimated 33m trees. [Continue reading…]