Vulnerability of maize, millet, and rice yields to growing season precipitation and socio-economic proxies in Cameroon

PLoS One. 2021 Jun 9;16(6):e0252335. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0252335. eCollection 2021.

Abstract

In sub-Saharan Africa growing season precipitation is affected by climate change. Due to this, in Cameroon, it is uncertain how some crops are vulnerable to growing season precipitation. Here, an assessment of the vulnerability of maize, millet, and rice to growing season precipitation is carried out at a national scale and validated at four sub-national scales/sites. The data collected were historical yield, precipitation, and adaptive capacity data for the period 1961-2019 for the national scale analysis and 1991-2016 for the sub-national scale analysis. The crop yield data were collected for maize, millet, and rice from FAOSTAT and the global yield gap atlas to assess the sensitivity both nationally and sub-nationally. Historical data on mean crop growing season and mean annul precipitation were collected from a collaborative database of UNDP/Oxford University and the climate portal of the World Bank to assess the exposure both nationally and sub-nationally. To assess adaptive capacity, literacy, and poverty rate proxies for both the national and regional scales were collected from KNOEMA and the African Development Bank. These data were analyzed using a vulnerability index that is based on sensitivity, exposure, and adaptive capacity. The national scale results show that millet has the lowest vulnerability index while rice has the highest. An inverse relationship between vulnerability and adaptive capacity is observed. Rice has the lowest adaptive capacity and the highest vulnerability index. Sub-nationally, this work has shown that northern maize is the most vulnerable crop followed by western highland rice. This work underscores the fact that at different scales, crops are differentially vulnerable due to variations in precipitation, temperature, soils, access to farm inputs, exposure to crop pest and variations in literacy and poverty rates. Therefore, caution should be taken when transitioning from one scale to another to avoid generalization. Despite these differences, in the sub-national scale, western highland rice is observed as the second most vulnerable crop, an observation similar to the national scale observation.