Impacts of climate change on cropping patterns in a tropical, sub-humid watershed

Confidence Duku*, Sander J. Zwart, Lars Hein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


In recent decades, there have been substantial increases in crop production in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) as a result of higher yields, increased cropping intensity, expansion of irrigated cropping systems, and rainfed cropland expansion. Yet, to date much of the research focus of the impact of climate change on crop production in the coming decades has been on crop yield responses. In this study, we analyse the impact of climate change on the potential for increasing rainfed cropping intensity through sequential cropping and irrigation expansion in central Benin. Our approach combines hydrological modelling and scenario analysis involving two Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs), two water-use scenarios for the watershed based on the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs), and environmental water requirements leading to sustained streamflow. Our analyses show that in Benin, warmer temperatures will severely limit crop production increases achieved through the expansion of sequential cropping. Depending on the climate change scenario, between 50% and 95% of cultivated areas that can currently support sequential cropping or will need to revert to single cropping. The results also show that the irrigation potential of the watershed will be at least halved by mid-century in all scenario combinations. Given the urgent need to increase crop production to meet the demands of a growing population in SSA, our study outlines challenges and the need for planned development that need to be overcome to improve food security in the coming decades.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0192642
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


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