Nutrient Access

^ Direct effect on the nutrient content of foods, including protein contents, glutin content of grains, and toxin levels from pests and diseases (6) > Direct effect on human health and thus ability to absorb nutrients through increasing vulnerability to disease (such as HIV/AIDS and malaria), affecting sanitation systems, drinking water (7)

agricultural production (Bryceson, 2000, 2004; Bryceson and Fonseca, 2006). At the same time, however, for the continent as a whole, the agriculture sector, which is highly dependent on precipitation, is estimated to account for approximately 60% of total employment, indicating its crucial role in livelihoods and food security derived through food access through purchase (Slingo etal., 2005).

There are a number of other illustrative impacts that climate variability and change have on livelihoods and food access, many of which also impact on food availability and nutrient access aspects of food security. These include impacts on the tourism sector (e.g., Hamilton et al., 2005), and on market access, which both affect the ability of farmers to obtain agricultural inputs, sell surplus crops, and purchase alternative foods. These impacts affect food security through altering or restraining livelihood strategies, while also affecting the variety of foods available and nutritional intake (Kelly et al., 2003). Market access is influenced not only by broader socio-economic and political factors, but also by distance from markets and the condition of the infrastructure, such as roads, which can be damaged during climate events (e.g., Abdulai and Crolerees, 2001; Ellis, 2003).

The key issues, therefore, in relation to the potential impacts of climate variability and change on food security in Africa encompass not only a narrow understanding of such impacts on food production but also a wider understanding of how such changes and impacts might interact with other environmental, social, economic and political factors that determine the vulnerability of households, communities and countries, as well as their capacity to adapt (Swaminathan, 2000; Adger and Vincent, 2005; Brooks et al., 2005). The impact of climate variability and change on food security therefore cannot be considered independently of the broader issue of human security (O'Brien, 2006). The inclusion of climate variability and change in understanding human vulnerability and adaptation is being increasingly explored at household and community levels, as well as though regional agro-climatological studies in Africa (e.g., Verhagen et al., 2001).

A number of studies have been undertaken that show that resource-poor farmers and communities use a variety of coping and adaptive mechanisms to ensure food security and sustainable livelihoods in the face of climate change and variability (see also Table 9.2). Adaptive capacity and choices, however, are based on a variety of complex causal mechanisms. Crop choices, for example, are not based purely on resistance to drought or disease but on factors such as cultural preferences, palatability, and seed storage capacity (Scoones et al., 2005). Research elsewhere in the world also indicates that elements of social capital (such as associations, networks and levels of trust) are important determinants of social resilience and responses to climate change, but how these develop and are used in mitigating vulnerability remains unclear.

While exploring the local-level dynamics of people's vulnerability to climate change, of which adaptive capacity is a key component, it is important to find ways to embed such findings into wider scales of assessment (e.g., country and regional scales) (Brooks et al., 2005). A number of recent studies are beginning to probe the enormous challenges of developing scenarios of adaptive capacity at multiple scales. From these studies, a complex range of factors, including behavioural economics (Grothmann and Patt, 2005), national aspirations and socio-political goals (Haddad, 2005), governance, civil and political rights and literacy, economic well-being and stability, demographic structure, global interconnectivity, institutional stability and well-being, and natural resource dependence (Adger and Vincent, 2005), are all emerging as powerful determinants of vulnerability and the capacity to adapt to climate change. Such determinants permeate through food 'systems' to impact on food security at various levels. Attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly the first goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, in the face of climate change will therefore require science that specifically considers food insecurity as an integral element of human vulnerability within the context of complex social, economic, political and biophysical systems, and that is able to offer usable findings for decision-makers at all scales.

9.6.2 Indigenous knowledge systems

The term 'indigenous knowledge' is used to describe the knowledge systems developed by a community as opposed to the scientific knowledge that is generally referred to as 'modern' knowledge (Ajibade, 2003). Indigenous knowledge is the basis for local-level decision-making in many rural communities. It has value not only for the culture in which it evolves, but also for scientists and planners striving to improve conditions in rural localities. Incorporating indigenous knowledge into climate-change policies can lead to the development of effective adaptation strategies that are cost-effective, participatory and sustainable (Robinson and Herbert, 2001). Indigenous knowledge in weather forecasting

Local communities and farmers in Africa have developed intricate systems of gathering, predicting, interpreting and decision-making in relation to weather. A study in Nigeria, for example, shows that farmers are able to use knowledge of weather systems such as rainfall, thunderstorms, windstorms, harmattan (a dry dusty wind that blows along the north-west coast of Africa) and sunshine to prepare for future weather (Ajibade and Shokemi, 2003). Indigenous methods of weather forecasting are known to complement farmers' planning activities in Nigeria. A similar study in Burkina Faso showed that farmers' forecasting knowledge encompasses shared and selective experiences. Elderly male farmers formulate hypotheses about seasonal rainfall by observing natural phenomena, while cultural and ritual specialists draw predictions from divination, visions or dreams (Roncoli et al., 2001). The most widely relied-upon indicators are the timing, intensity and duration of cold temperatures during the early part of the dry season (November to January). Other forecasting indicators include the timing of fruiting by certain local trees, the water level in streams and ponds, the nesting behaviour of small quaillike birds, and insect behaviour in rubbish heaps outside compound walls (Roncoli et al., 2001). Indigenous knowledge in mitigation and adaptation

African communities and farmers have always coped with changing environments. They have the knowledge and practices to cope with adverse environments and shocks. The enhancement of indigenous capacity is a key to the empowerment of local communities and their effective participation in the development process (Leautier, 2004). People are better able to adopt new ideas when these can be seen in the context of existing practices. A study in Zimbabwe observed that farmers' willingness to use seasonal climate forecasts increased when the forecasts were presented in conjunction with and compared with the local indigenous climate forecasts (Patt and Gwata, 2002).

Local farmers in several parts of Africa have been known to conserve carbon in soils through the use of zero-tilling practices in cultivation, mulching, and other soil-management techniques (Dea and Scoones, 2003). Natural mulches moderate soil temperatures and extremes, suppress diseases and harmful pests, and conserve soil moisture. The widespread use of indigenous plant materials, such as agrochemicals to combat pests that normally attack food crops, has also been reported among small-scale farmers (Gana, 2003). It is likely that climate change will alter the ecology of disease vectors, and such indigenous practices of pest management would be useful adaptation strategies. Other indigenous strategies that are adopted by local farmers include: controlled bush clearing; using tall grasses such as Andropogon gayanus for fixing soil surface nutrients washed away by runoff; erosion-control bunding to reduce significantly the effects of runoff; restoring lands by using green manure; constructing stone dykes; managing low-lying lands and protecting river banks (AGRHYMET, 2004).

Adaptation strategies that are applied by pastoralists in times of drought include the use of emergency fodder, culling of weak livestock for food, and multi-species composition of herds to survive climate extremes. During drought periods, pastoralists and agro-pastoralists change from cattle to sheep and goat husbandry, as the feed requirements of the latter are lower (Seo and Mendelsohn, 2006b). The pastoralists' nomadic mobility reduces the pressure on low-capacity grazing areas through their cyclic movements from the dry northern areas to the wetter southern areas of the Sahel.

African women are particularly known to possess indigenous knowledge which helps to maintain household food security, particularly in times of drought and famine. They often rely on indigenous plants that are more tolerant to droughts and pests, providing a reserve for extended periods of economic hardship (Ramphele, 2004; Eriksen, 2005). In southern Sudan, for example, women are directly responsible for the selection of all sorghum seeds saved for planting each year. They preserve a spread of varieties of seeds that will ensure resistance to the range of conditions that may arise in any given growing season (Easton and Roland, 2000).

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