Reducing the Vulnerability of Albania’s Agriculture to Climate Change

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December 5, 2013

World Bank report takes an in-depth look at the challenges and opportunities of climate change on agriculture

WASHINGTON, December 5, 2013 — Agriculture is one of the most climate-sensitive of all economic sectors, and without a clear plan for aligning agricultural policies with climate change, the livelihoods of rural populations are at risk, according to the World Bank publication Reducing the Vulnerability of Albania’s Agricultural Systems to Climate Change.

The book notes that in many countries, such as in Albania, the risks of climate change are an immediate and fundamental problem because the majority of the rural population depends either directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods.

“The rural poor will be disproportionately affected because of their greater dependence on agriculture, their relatively lower ability to adapt, and the high share of income they spend on food,” said William Sutton, an author of the book and a Lead Agriculture Economist at the World Bank. “Climate impacts could therefore undermine progress that has been made in poverty reduction and adversely impact food security and economic growth in vulnerable rural areas.”

The study projects impacts of climate change on agriculture across Albania’s four agro-ecological areas through forecast variations in temperature and rainfall patterns so crucial to farming. According to the report, over the next 40 years, average warming in Albania will be about 1.5°C, compared with the less than 0.5°C increase in temperature observed over the last 50 years.

The annual averages, however, are less important for agricultural production than the seasonal distribution of temperature and precipitation.  Temperature increases are projected to be higher, and precipitation declines greater, during the crucial summer growing period. Summer temperature increases over the next 40 years can be as much as 4–5°C in the northern mountains of Albania.

The report says that these seasonal changes in climate have clear implications for crop and livestock production in Albania, if no adaptation measures are adopted beyond those that farmers already employ, such as changing planting dates in response to temperature changes.

Sutton noted that Climate change can also create opportunities, particularly in the agricultural sector. Increased temperatures can lengthen growing seasons, higher carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations can enhance plant growth, and in some areas rainfall and the availability of water resources can increase as a result of climate change.”

For example, climate change is projected to reduce yields for grapes and olives in Albania by around 20 percent under the medium impact scenario. However it could have the potential to improve yields of rainfed wheat (if pest damage does not increase) and irrigated alfalfa.

According to the publication, the risks of climate change to agriculture in Albania cannot be effectively dealt with—and the opportunities cannot be effectively taken advantage of—without a clear plan for aligning agricultural policies with climate change, developing the capabilities of key agricultural institutions, and making needed investments in infrastructure, support services, and on-farm improvements. Developing such a plan ideally involves a combination of high-quality quantitative analysis, consultation with key stakeholders, particularly farmers and local agricultural experts, and investments in both human and physical capital.

“This book offers options for navigating the risks and realizing the opportunities. It identifies practical solutions for introducing what is known as ‘climate-smart agriculture’ for farmers in Albania,” said Dina Umali-Deininger, Agriculture and Rural Development Sector Manager in the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia Region. “It demonstrates that the solutions are those measures that increase resilience to future climate change, boost current productivity despite the greater climate variability already occurring, and limit greenhouse gas emissions.”

Reducing The Vulnerability of Albania’s Agricultural Systems to Climate Change: Impact Assessment and Adaptation Options applies this approach to Albania with the goal of helping the country mainstream climate change adaptation into its agricultural policies, programs, and investments.

“Recent flooding events in Albania have underscored the climate change risks. Climate variability has magnified serious weaknesses in the management of Albania’s water resources, characterized by fragmentation and duplication of water management responsibilities, as well as inadequate stakeholder involvement in integrated water management decision making,” said Tahseen Sayed, incoming Country Manager for the World Bank Office in Albania.The World Bank through several projects is supporting the Government of Albania to address these weaknesses, through strengthening river basin authorities, developing realistic river basin management plans, rehabilitating irrigation dams and ensuring dam safety, modernizing irrigation systems and improving watershed and forest management at the community level."

This is one of four country studies that were produced under the World Bank’s program, Reducing Vulnerability to Climate Change in European and Central Asian Agricultural Systems. The other countries included in this series are FYR Macedonia, Moldova, and Uzbekistan.

The results from the four studies are consolidated in the book Looking Beyond the Horizon: How Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Responses Will Reshape Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

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