Reducing the vulnerability of Moldova’s agriculture to climate change

Source(s): World Bank, the

Washington — Agriculture is one of the most climate-sensitive of all economic sectors, and without a clear plan for aligning agricultural policies with climate change, the livelihoods of rural populations are at risk, according to the World Bank publication Reducing the Vulnerability of Moldova’s Agricultural Systems to Climate Change.

The book notes that in many countries, such as in Moldova, the risks of climate change are an immediate and fundamental problem because the majority of the rural population depends either directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods.

“The rural poor will be disproportionately affected because of their greater dependence on agriculture, their relatively lower ability to adapt, and the high share of income they spend on food,” said William Sutton, an author of the book and a Lead Agriculture Economist at the World Bank. “Climate impacts could therefore undermine progress that has been made in poverty reduction and adversely impact food security and economic growth in vulnerable rural areas.”

The study projects impacts of climate change on agriculture across Moldova’s three agro-ecological areas through forecast variations in temperature and rainfall patterns so crucial to farming. According to the report, over the next 40 years climate change will grow more severe in Moldova. Average warming will be about 2°C, compared with the less than 0.6°C increase in temperature observed over the last 50 years, and precipitation will become more variable.

The annual averages, however, are less important for agricultural production than the seasonal distribution of temperature and precipitation. Temperature increases are projected to be higher, and precipitation declines greater, during the crucial summer growing period. Summer temperature increases can be as much as 7°C in southern Moldova by the middle of the century. These conditions have been confirmed by farmers as already affecting their actions and production results. Farmers in Moldova are not suitably adapted to current climate. This effect is sometimes called the ‘adaptation deficit’, which in Moldova is large.

The direct temperature and precipitation effect of future climate change on crops in Moldova will be a reduction of most yields. The report authors also project water supply and demand in Moldova under a changed climate, and forecast substantial water shortages for the Raut and Nistru River basins in the future, meaning that there will be insufficient water available to irrigate crops. As a result, the total effects of climate change could lead to losses for farmers of from 10 to 30 percent for crops like maize, wheat, alfalfa and vegetables under the medium impact scenario. Fruit crops like grapes and apples will not be as severely affected, but they are still projected to suffer losses of from 0 to 10 percent if nothing is done to adapt.

Sutton added that “At the same time, climate change can also create opportunities, particularly in the agricultural sector. Increased temperatures can lengthen growing seasons, higher carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations can enhance plant growth, and in some areas rainfall and the availability of water resources can increase as a result of climate change.”

According to the publication, the risks of climate change to agriculture in Moldova cannot be effectively dealt with—and the opportunities cannot be effectively taken advantage of—without a clear plan for aligning agricultural policies with climate change, developing the capabilities of key agricultural institutions, and making needed investments in infrastructure, support services, and on-farm improvements. Developing such a plan ideally involves a combination of high-quality quantitative analysis, consultation with key stakeholders, particularly farmers and local agricultural experts, and investments in both human and physical capital.

"This book offers a map for navigating the risks and realizing the opportunities. It identifies practical solutions for introducing what is known as ‘climate-smart agriculture’ for farmers in Moldova," said Dina Umali-Deininger, Agriculture and Rural Development Sector Manager in the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia Region. "It demonstrates that the solutions are those measures that increase resilience to future climate change, boost current productivity despite the greater climate variability already occurring, and limit greenhouse gas emissions."

Reducing The Vulnerability of Moldova's Agricultural Systems to Climate Change: Impact Assessment and Adaptation Options applies this approach to Moldova with the goal of helping the country mainstream climate change adaptation into its agricultural policies, programs, and investments.

“Reducing Moldova’s vulnerability to climate change is a top priority of World Bank Group support to the country,” said Abdoulaye Seck, World Bank Country Manager for Moldova. “Cyclical weather calamities are having debilitating effects on the country’s agriculture and people and we are working to address these challenges through enhancing disaster risk management capacity and boosting adaptation capacity to climate variations.”

This is one of four country studies that were produced under the World Bank’s program, Reducing Vulnerability to Climate Change in European and Central Asian Agricultural Systems. The other countries included in this series are Albania, FYR Macedonia, and Uzbekistan.

The results from the four studies are consolidated in the book Looking Beyond the Horizon: How Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Responses Will Reshape Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

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