Sabah Minja grows apples on his 1.3 hectare plot of land in northwest Albania, where the climate typically has cool winters and hot, dry summers. But lately Minja has noticed a shift in weather that is starting to affect his apple production.
"I have seen the effects of climate change over the last several years. We are having very hot summers with no rainfall, which is very bad for agriculture. These high temperatures are deforming the shape of my apples and affecting the taste."
Sabah is one of millions of farmers whose crops are suffering from the effects of changing weather patterns throughout Europe and Central Asia. Over the last few decades, temperatures have been shifting along with rain and snow patterns, resulting in more frequent droughts and floods.
Agriculture is highly sensitive to climate, and these shifts can have huge impacts on farming and farmers, especially poor farmers in the region, who often earn less than $5 a day and depend on crops for their food and livelihoods.
To address this challenge, the World Bank has teamed-up with four countries—Albania, FYR Macedonia, Moldova and Uzbekistan—to increase the resiliency of agricultural systems to climate change. This work includes recommendations to address specific vulnerabilities in the agricultural sector in these countries and awareness raising initiatives across the board.
Projections show that overall temperatures will increase in these four countries while precipitation will become more variable—especially during the growing season, which could mean less water for irrigation and lower yields.
Over the last three years, the Regional Program on Reducing the Vulnerability to Climate Change in ECA Agricultural Systems has been assessing the potential impacts of climate change on agricultural systems and developing adaptation options that can be mainstreamed into national and localized policies, programs and investments.To develop individual responses, the World Bank has worked closely with partners from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment, Agricultural agencies, NGOs, farmers and other stakeholders.
"In the course of this Program we combined climate, water and crop models to assess the impact of climate change on agricultural production, and applied economic analysis to an array of practical adaptation options," says William Sutton, Senior Agricultural and Resource Economist and Task Team Leader for this Program, "but we understand that climate models are imperfect, so we also used a very participatory approach, discussing with farmers to better understand the types of government support they would like to see."
Most recently, draft Impact Assessments and Menus of Adaptation Options were discussed with key national and local stakeholders during National Dissemination and Awareness Raising Conferences held in each country during March and April.
These discussions and other program components will soon result in a final set of recommendations for practical policies, programs and investments to help reduce vulnerability to climate change, which will be integrated across countries into a Regional Synthesis report, currently being developed for regional discussions.
Once put into place nationally, these recommendations can begin to help rural farmers like Sabah deal with the difficulties of a projected future climate. In fact, all of the Program countries are already exploring ways to implement recommended measures through World Bank-financed projects and other programs.
"We are trying to adapt to climate change," says Sabah Minja, "for example, we are changing apple varieties to one which produces fruit in November, instead of August, when the temperatures are too high. The Program has helped a lot. Taking into consideration that temperatures are rising and irrigation is becoming difficult, I have been implementing new, drip irrigation methods."
For more information on the Regional Program on Reducing the Vulnerability to Climate Change in ECA Agricultural Systems, please go to www.worldbank.org/eca/climateandagriculture.