Food security is closely linked to climate, and in Sudan agriculture accounts for around one third of the country's GDP, and employs around 80% of the labour force. Climate change could have a large impact on agricultural production and livelihoods in Sudan, and the World Food Programme and the Met Office undertook a study on the relationship between long-term climate change and future food security.
Download the full food security and climate change assessment for Sudan here.
Sudan lies at the northern most extent of the band of tropical rains known as the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone. This means it has a strong gradient of rainfall, ranging from extremely dry conditions in the north, to relatively wet conditions in the south. The climate is hot throughout the year but with seasonal rains, which can vary from year-to-year.
The large differences in rainfall across the country mean there are a wide variety of livelihoods and agricultural production systems, which correspond to the climatological suitability of different regions. Pastoral farming dominates in the north where rainfall totals are low and the onset of the rains is unreliable; cropping systems are more prevalent in the south where the rainy season is reliably longer and heavier.
However, agriculture is mostly rain-fed in Sudan and is therefore sensitive to rainfall amounts and timings everywhere. This means that climate variability and change are key factors in the future of Sudan's economy, livelihoods, and food security.
The study analysed climate model projections for the 2040s. The climate change projections for Sudan indicate a substantial warming trend across the country. In contrast, rainfall projections are mixed, with most models projecting small increases in annual rainfall and some projecting small decreases. However, increased evaporation as a result of higher temperatures will have a negative impact on water availability.
Three scenarios that span the range of available plausible future climates for Sudan were studied. All scenarios showed varying extents of increased heat and water stress, and year-to-year variability in timings and amounts of rainfall. This will make food production more challenging and increase stresses on livelihoods and food security.
The study recommends that adaptation measures should focus on reducing sensitivity, improving resilience to variability and extremes, and improving heat tolerance and water efficiency in agricultural production.