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Projecting the effects of climate change on Ethiopian crops

In partnership with The Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew) and the University of Greenwich, Queen Mary Professors Richard Nichols and Richard Buggs have launched a new project to understand how local crops in rural Ethiopia might adapt to the growing effects of climate change.

A farm in the southern Ethiopian highlands

A farm in the southern Ethiopian highlands

Over generations, local farmers in the Southern Ethiopian highlands have developed specific cropping methods. Food production in the densely populated region has been cultivated by growing a mix of annual and perennial plants, with farmers being able to ensure a constant supply of food for their families. This part of Ethiopia has not experienced famine in living memory.

However, as a result of climate change, Ethiopia’s average annual temperature increased by 1.3°C between 1960 and 2006. Alarmingly, this is projected to increase by a further 3.1°C by the 2060s. While the southern highlands’ regional crops have broadly survived until now, certain plants have already suffered negative effects due to the changes.

A mixed plantation of maize and ensetProfessors Richard Nichols and Richard Buggs of Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, in partnership with The Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew) and University of Greenwich, visited the region at the beginning of 2020 to launch a new project. The aim is to understand how these local Ethiopian crops adapt to their environments, and eventually predict how the effects of climate change can be mitigated. The project examines 10 crops commonly grown in the area, including ensete (false banana), cabbages, potatoes, yams, maize, coffee, avocados, beans, bananas, pumpkins, and barley.

The project was successfully launched together with partners from Addis Ababa University, Hawassa University and the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute. Over the course of the project, interviews will be conducted with local farmers, and soils will be analysed to understand how their quality is affected by the different cropping regimes on different farms. The anticipated results may allow future projections of which crop varieties will fare best in different areas under the effects of climate change.

Read Professor Richard Buggs’ project report here.

Images © RBG Kew / Richard Buggs.



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