In this post, we pick up where we left off in our case study of rainfed maize for Kenya. In the previous post, we focused on climate hotspots. Here, we focus on climate opportunities. For the reader’s convenience, we show below the map that we presented in Part 2, since the map will also be the focus of the discussion in this post.
Situation 2: Climate Opportunities
Consider the blue areas, any of them. These are areas where maize will grow in the future, but would not in the past. These areas generally come about because of either increased rainfall; or as sometimes happens in higher elevations, the temperatures previously were too cold, but with some warming, the area will become usable for that crop.
Areas that are considered climate opportunities are ones that are potentially exploitable, raising national production and benefiting the farmers who move there. If farmers discover these areas, and land is scarce (i.e., when farm sizes are small and rural population density is high), they will generally have a lot of motivation to move into these areas.
While having new areas for cultivation appears on the surface to be a good thing, there are some potential negative consequences that should be considered. For example, these areas might be environmentally sensitive or even be protected legally for the sake of wildlife or tourism or biodiversity. This would then present challenges and dilemmas for policymakers to resolve.
Furthermore — and this would be more likely to be true in the case of areas opening up due to temperature increases making it viable to plant in higher elevations – the area could have a lot of steeply sloping land, which could lead to soil erosion and eventual abandonment of the land.
Finally, if the areas are good and other areas far away are bad, this could cause “climate migration”, in which farmers from other parts of the country relocate in the good areas. However, in some parts of the world, including many parts of Africa, such a large influx of outsiders might lead to ethnic tension.
The same type of problem that occurs in the blue areas, with pressure to settle it or intensify production, might also appear on lands in which yields were projected to increase greatly because of climate change. In the map, one such area would include the dark green in south-central Kenya near the Tanzanian border, or the area near the coast.
Policymakers should consider whether adequate protections are in place to protect protected areas and environmentally sensitive areas. They should also consider the migration scenarios that could arise, and whether laws already in place would help lead to the desired outcome, whether that would be to allow for settling of new lands or moving into new areas, or whether this would not generally be acceptable to the nation.
In the next post in this series, we consider cases in which we might receive mixed signals in particular areas from the crop models.