Conclusions

The agricultural climate of the arid and semi-arid tropical regions in Asia, Africa and Latin America is characterized by low and variable rainfall and consistently high temperatures during the growing season. Climate variability - both inter-and intra-annual - is a fact of life in these regions with a traditionally low agricultural productivity. The projected climate change and the attendant impacts on water resources and agriculture in the arid and semi-arid tropical regions add additional layers of risk and uncertainty to an agricultural system that is already impacted by land degradation due to growing population pressures. Farmers in these regions have over centuries adopted cropping strategies, such as inter cropping and mixed cropping, that minimize the risk and ensure some degree of productivity even in poor years. Such strategies are based on their understanding of natural climatic variability, but the projected climate change is not factored into this understanding. Hence it is important to examine crop responses to a range of possible changes, especially in the nature, frequencies and sequences of extreme climatic changes. Issues such as sustainability or land productivity, changes in erosion, degradation and environmental quality also need careful consideration. Improved management strategies are necessary for coping with the projected global climatic change in the arid and semi-arid tropical regions of the world.

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(Received 15 December 2003; in revised form 19 May 2004)

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