Improving Water Availability and Restoring Soil Fertility in the Sahel
Climate change will exacerbate income risk if agricultural productivity does not increase. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warns that drought frequency, duration, and intensity will likely increase in Africa, particularly in the Sahel. In 2030, researchers estimate that 250 million people could live in an African region with high water stress. In turn, climate change will impact yields. One study estimates that sorghum and maize yields in the western Sahel will decline by 1.5 percent on average at 1.5°C global warming and by 4 percent at 2°C global warming. Although irrigation, which currently represents less than 1 percent of cultivated land, could be a solution, labor market failures may limit adoption in the medium run, and eventual adoption may increase competition and tensions over scarce water. Indeed, the Sahel is one of the most water-stressed regions in the world, with an unevenly distributed water supply that crosses national boundaries.