Congo-Brazzaville: Changing climate affects farmers on the Congolese coast (by John Ndinga-Goma, for Farm Radio Weekly in Congo-Brazzaville)
Date Posted: July 2nd, 2012
Mireille Mbouaki farms in the village of Mboubissi, sixty kilometres southeast of Pointe-Noire, capital city of the Congolese department of Kouilou. This year the rains have been poor and irregular. Ms. Mbouaki is very worried. She says, “My impression is that I am weeding for nothing. I might have a very poor cassava crop this year.”
She has good reason to worry. In many coastal towns, cassava plants are suffering. Leaves are wrinkled and shriveled, plants are stunted, and roots are rotting. The changing climate has not been kind to Congolese farmers.
Crops like groundnuts and maize are also struggling. Ms. Mbouaki says, “Last year I produced three 50-kilogram bags of maize and twelve bags of peanuts. But this March, I’ve only had seven bags of peanuts and a bag of maize.”
The authorities are aware of the problem. Emmanuel Aime Bassafoula is with the Provincial Directorate of Agriculture in Kouilou. He says there has been a drop in agricultural production over the past two years. The most affected crops are groundnuts, maize and cassava.
Mr. Bassafoula says that, while other factors play a part, the main reason for the decline in yields is the changing climate. He explains, “It seldom rains in recent times and it is very hot. When the soil warms and there is not enough water, crops are likely to die. ”
Local farmers are aware that the climate is changing. A farmer in the neighbouring village of Ndembouanou says, “From noon onwards, you feel the warmth underfoot. Things are heating up even underground, [and] it did not rain as much this year as usual.”
According to climate experts, 2011 and 2012 were the warmest years on record in the area. Jean Pierre Makaya is a climatologist and meteorologist. He says, “During the rainy season, the average monthly minimum is usually 25°. But the past two years, it has been 27°. And the trend is increasing.” Mr. Makaya believes that, while weather data may vary from one place to place, the climate has already warmed.
There is also less rain. In the first quarter of 2012, the Pointe-Noire area received only about a third as much rain as in 2011.
Experts believe that climate change will result in a decline in crop production in Kouilou. Producers are struggling to find methods to adapt.
Ms. Tsingui is a farmer in the village of Tchissoko. Saddened by the situation, she says, “Since our ancestors’ [time], we have cultivated the soil with the help of rain. Now that it is scarce, the best solution is to move.” Other farmers will also move in the coming days. Despite the poor situation, Ms. Tsingui is confident that relocating will result in success.
But with the global climate changing, moving is at best a temporary solution. Climatologist Mr. Makaya says that it’s time for environmentalists, agronomists and climatologists to work together.