Adapting to climate change for food security in the Rift Valley dry lands of Ethiopia: supplemental irrigation, plant density and sowing date

A. Muluneh*, L. Stroosnijder, S. Keesstra, B. Biazin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Studies on climate impacts and related adaptation strategies are becoming increasingly important to counteract the negative impacts of climate change. In Ethiopia, climate change is likely to affect crop yields negatively and therefore food security. However, quantitative evidence is lacking about the ability of farm-level adaptation options to offset the negative impacts of climate change and to improve food security. The MarkSim Global Climate Model weather generator was used to generate projected daily rainfall and temperature data originally taken from the ECHAM5 general circulation model and ensemble mean of six models under high (A2) and low (B1) emission scenarios. The FAO AquaCrop model was validated and subsequently used to predict maize yields and explore three adaptation options: supplemental irrigation (SI), increasing plant density and changing sowing date. The maximum level of maize yield was obtained when the second level of supplemental irrigation (SI2), which is the application of irrigation water when the soil water depletion reached 75% of the total available water in the root zone, is combined with 30 000 plants/ha plant density. It was also found that SI has a marginal effect in good rainfall years but using 94–111 mm of SI can avoid total crop failure in drought years. Hence, SI is a promising option to bridge dry spells and improve food security in the Rift Valley dry lands of Ethiopia. Expected longer dry spells during the shorter rainy season (Belg) in the future are likely to further reduce maize yield. This predicted lower maize production is only partly compensated by the expected increase in CO2 concentration. However, shifting the sowing period of maize from the current Belg season (mostly April or May) to the first month of the longer rainy season (Kiremt) (June) can offset the predicted yield reduction. In general, the present study showed that climate change will occur and, without adaptation, will have negative effects. Use of SI and shifting sowing dates are viable options for adapting to the changes, stabilizing or increasing yield and therefore improving food security for the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-724
JournalThe Journal of Agricultural Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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