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Climate change predictions build resilience in African tea production


Scorched tea in Mulanje in October 2019. Credit: WeatherChasers Researchers in the UK and Africa have teamed up to help tea producers better understand future climate risks so that they can reduce crop damage caused by climate change.

Kenya and Malawi produce more than half the tea Britons consume and the crop makes up about 7% of Malawi’s GDP and 4% of Kenya’s. In recent years frosts followed by high daytime temperatures have reduced yields, as have longer and more intense dry spells.

The plants are particularly sensitive to climate and the research suggests that without interventions aimed at specific locations tea production will decline in Kenya and Malawi by the 2050s—and fall significantly further by the 2080s.

Working with producers and their representatives in both countries, a University of Leeds-led research team assessed climate factors affecting the growth and quality of tea at nine locations. Their results are published in Climate Risk Management.

Project lead Professor Andy Dougill said: “We combined long-term climate observations and the latest climate model projections to predict micro-climates for nine areas over the coming decades. The same methodology could now be applied to other tea-producing areas of the world and adapted for other cash crops.”

Using producers’ knowledge […]

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