Climate Change, Food Security, and Population in Sub-Saharan Africa: Modeling the Linkages

By Scott Moreland and Ellen Smith.

Published by The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Developing countries face ever increasing challenges in the area of food security. Among these challenges, climate change is arguably one of the most serious and wide-spread threats, since it affects all regions of the world, albeit not equally. There is growing evidence that climate change is decreasing the productivity of many crops around the world, thus increasing the risk of food shortages in developing countries where agricultural systems are low-tech and malnutrition is common. While population growth is often mentioned as a contributing factor to food insecurity in developing countries, changing the rate of population growth is rarely seen as a policy alternative, especially when addressing strategies to adapt to climate change.
We developed a computer simulation model to help clarify the dynamic relationships between climate change, food security, and population growth. The aim was to develop a model that would be simple enough to adapt to a country and that could be used at the policy level to introduce population issues into the dialogue on adaptation to climate change in the context of food security. The resulting model links a population projection, a sophisticated economic model that takes account of the effects of climate change on agriculture, and a food requirements model that uses Food and Agricultural Organization formulas.
The model was tested and piloted in Ethiopia. The Ethiopia pilot demonstrated the usefulness of this model in quantifying the contribution of family planning in adapting to potential climate change-induced food security challenges. The model shows that the food security gap in Ethiopia is expected to be greater with climate change than the food security gap without climate change. The model also shows the potential of family planning to address this gap; the food security gap under an assumption of low population growth and climate change is lower compared to the gap with climate change and high population growth. In fact, by the year 2050 the model estimates that slower population growth will compensate completely for the effects of climate change on food insecurity.

Keywords: Population, Adaptation, Modeling, Food Security, Africa, Ethiopia

The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.29-47. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.449MB).

Dr. Scott Moreland

Senior Fellow, Futures Group, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Scott Moreland (Ph.D., Duke) is a Senior Fellow and health economist at the Futures Group with over 35 years of experience in academia, the private sector and in international development assistance. He has specialized in computer simulation modeling for resource poor countries and has developed models of population growth, economic growth, labor and manpower supply, water and sanitation, child mortality, gender interventions, climate change, food security and education. These have included models for numerous African countries including Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Mauritania, Mali and Ethiopia as well as Egypt and Tunisia. He has developed models of developing countries for the UN Population Division, the ILO, USAID, and for the governments of Taiwan and Tunisia. Prior to joining Futures Group in 1995, he worked for RTI International and was a lecturer in Economics at the University of Warwick, England.

Ellen Smith

Demographer and Policy Analyst, Futures Group, Washington, Washington, DC, USA

Ellen Smith is a Demographer at Futures Group specializing in the use of data and models to analyze the impacts and costs of population, fertility, family planning, and HIV/AIDS in the developing world. She works throughout sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Previously Ms. Smith worked at the World Bank Africa Division on issues of Human Resources for Health (HRH), focusing on a labor market perspective. She also served as a Program Coordinator for the Foundation for Sustainable Development in Uganda and Ecuador. At the University of California, Berkeley’s Global Center for Health Economics & Policy she worked on issues of mental health policy and financing in Eastern Europe. Ms. Smith holds a Masters in Demography from the University of California, Berkeley and a BA Summa Cum Laude from Washington University in St. Louis.

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