Department Systems Analysis, Integrated Assessment and Modelling

Assessing Drought Impact on Crop Yield and Crop-Drought Vulnerability in Sub-Saharan Africa

Droughts can have devastating effects on water supply, crop production, food security and many other aspects of human livelihood. The impact is particularly severe in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where rainfed subsistence farming dominates the food production and where political, social and economic systems are often inadequately prepared to cope with disasters. The recurrence of droughts in the past decades has triggered many famines in the sub-continent. The severity of droughts and their impacts is projected to increase as a consequence of climate change.

The aim of this project is to assess the drought impact on crops and crop drought vulnerability. The study offers the opportunity to perform a large geographical scale crop modeling with high spatial resolution over the whole of SSA. Three specific objectives of the project include:

  1. Applying the Python-based EPIC model (PEPIC) to simulate the impact of droughts on crop yields with specification of duration and types of droughts concerning different stages of crop growth;
  2. Assessing the crop-drought vulnerability by incorporating the yield loss (simulated), the relative production failure (statistics), as well as the frequency of drought events (identified);
  3. Investigating the socio-economic factors influencing the crop-drought vulnerability and mapping out the hot spots of high vulnerability to droughts in SSA.

The project endeavors to advance the applicability of crop models for assessing drought impacts on crop yields and crop-drought vulnerability, while pinpointing the limitations that remain. By providing an integrated bio-physical and socio-economic assessment, the study helps identify entry points for developing effective measures to improve the drought coping capacity in SSA. The knowledge learnt also helps enhance the projection of impact of future extreme dry weather conditions on crop yield and food production and facilitate the societal preparedness to drought impact. 


Karamaz, B. Wehrli, B., Yang, H. et al., Applying a Python based crop model to simulate the impact of droughts on crop yields in SSA. In preparation.