Maize is the primary food staple in southern Africa, and 50 percent of the total maize output in the area is produced in South Africa, where maize constitutes approximately 70 percent of grain production and covers 60 percent of the country’s cropping area. Climate change could have a significant impact on South African maize production. The scientific community has established that the temperature in South Africa increased significantly between 1960 and 2003 (by 0.13 degrees Celsius), and further temperature increases and changes in the quantity and pattern of rainfall are expected despite any attempts by the international community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Although the maize plant is quite hardy and adaptable to harsh conditions, warmer temperatures and lower levels of precipitation could have detrimental effects on yields, thereby increasing food insecurity in the region.
This brief is based on a paper that uses household survey data to explore the direct impact of climate variability, measured by changes in temperature and precipitation, on maize yields in the Limpopo Basin of South Africa.