Photograph by DeAgostini, Getty
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On a Kiamara plantation in Uganda, men collect tea in baskets tied to their heads.

Photograph by DeAgostini, Getty
The Plate

How African Farmers Face a Warming Climate

Science, technology, health, development, population growth, and conflict all play a role in adapting to climate change.

Many African farmers walk a thin line between poverty and prosperity every day, and climate change is threatening to make it even tougher, says Tim McDonnell, Fulbright-National Geographic storytelling fellow, who recently embarked on a nine-month journey to explore the relationship between agriculture, hunger, and climate in Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria.

East Africa is roughly 1.5 degrees F warmer now than it was in the 1980s. And rainfall has dropped by 15 percent since then, according to climatologist Bradfield Lyon of the University of Maine. McDonnell reports that climate change could drive down yields of staples like rice, wheat, and maize by about 20 percent by 2050, while population in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to double by then. Also, drought could shorten the growing season in some places by up to 40 percent.

These are challenges the continent faces every day, not just on World Food Day, which is Sunday.

But the story of the future of African farming is not all bad news. Only about one-third of the continent's arable land is being used for farming right now, and many innovators are working with farmers to help them grow enough to eat and sell by harnessing emerging technology, changing land laws, and other methods. McDonnell plans to explore cities and rural areas through the eyes of the farmers living there in video, text, audio, and photos.

For the full story on McDonnell's plans, check out his post here on our sister blog, Voices.

What will come out of his reporting, featured here on The Plate and on Voices, is a more complete picture of how Africans are adapting to a warming world. And you can follow McDonnell along his journey on Twitter @timmcdonnell and Instagram @timothy.m.mcdonnell.