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Intra-seasonal risk of agriculturally-relevant weather extremes in West African Sudan Savanna

Boansi, David, Tambo, Justice A., Müller, Marc
Theoretical and applied climatology 2019 v.135 no.1-2 pp. 355-373
Markov chain, climatic factors, crops, cultivars, drought, farmers, household surveys, irrigation, issues and policy, meteorological data, models, monitoring, planting date, rain, risk, savannas, soil, stakeholders, temperature, water management, weather forecasting, wet season, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Sudan
Using household survey data and historical daily climate data for 29 communities across Upper East Ghana and Southwest Burkina Faso, we document climatic conditions deemed major threat to farming in the West African Sudan Savanna and assess risks posed by such conditions over the period 1997–2014. Based on farmers’ perception, it is found that drought, low rainfall, intense precipitation, flooding, erratic rainfall pattern, extremely high temperatures, delayed rains, and early cessation of rains are the major threats farmers face. Using first-order Markov chain model and relevant indices for monitoring weather extremes, it is discovered that climatic risk is a general inherent attribute of the rainy season in the study area. Due to recent changes in onset of rains and length of the rainy season, some farmers have either resorted to early planting of drought-hardy crops, late planting of drought-sensitive crops, or spreading of planting across the first 3 months of the season to moderate harm. Each of these planting decisions however has some risk implications. The months of May, June, and October are found to be more susceptible to relatively longer duration of dry and hot spells, while July, August, and September are found to be more susceptible to intense precipitation and flooding. To moderate harm from anticipated weather extremes, farmers need to adjust their cropping calendar, adopt appropriate crop varieties, and implement soil and water management practices. For policy makers and other stakeholders, we recommend the supply of timely and accurate weather forecasts to guide farmers in their seasonal cropping decisions and investment in/installation of low cost irrigation facilities to enhance the practice of supplemental irrigation.