What is it about?

A “weather shock” is when you get extreme temperatures or rainfall – much hotter or colder, much wetter or drier, than usual. In African countries south of the Sahara desert, weather shocks are serious enough that they can be a real threat to farmers’ livehoods. This means farmers have to find other ways to survive – for example, they might have to cut down more trees to have more land to farm. Sometimes this causes more damage to the environment. In this project, the scientists brought together all the available information about the different ways farmers have responded to weather shocks. They explain that how we choose to use land is based on lots of different things. It can be based on the physical features of the land – such as whether it has hills, forests, or rivers. Or it can be based on whether there are enough people nearby to work on the land.

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Why is it important?

A weather shock can lead to land being abandoned because it is no longer productive. The farmers then have to move to another piece of land; this may mean they have to cut down forests in order to use the land for growing or grazing. Deforestation is bad for the environment, because it reduces carbon capture and leads to soil erosion. KEY TAKEAWAY: Weather shocks cause people to move around. We need to do more research to understand how often weather shocks have led to deforestation. This will help governments make informed decisions about how to reduce deforestation while still supporting their citizens.

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Agricultural households’ adaptation to weather shocks in Sub-Saharan Africa: implications for land-use change and deforestation, Environment and Development Economics, February 2021, Cambridge University Press,
DOI: 10.1017/s1355770x2000056x.
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