Assessing the future impacts of climate change on Mongolian arable farming

In Mongolia, the impacts of a rapidly warming climate have become alarmingly manifest in recent years. Mongolian air temperatures have risen at a rate three times faster than the global average in the past 70 years, while in some regions of the country rainfall has been slightly decreasing. Droughts occur regularly in Mongolia, and highly variable precipitation patterns have always been a challenge for crop production. However, climate change is expected to further increase the risk of severe droughts in the future.

 

In the face of these developments, a series of questions concerning the impact of climate change on Mongolian arable farmers have yet to be answered, including:

 

  • what will these developments mean for Mongolia’s arable farming sector in particular?
  • how exactly has climate change affected crop yields in Mongolia in recent decades?
  • what impacts will climate change have on Mongolia’s arable farming sector in the future?
  • and how can the country take measures to adapt to these developments and ensure a sufficient level of food production for its growing – and increasingly urbanizing – population?

 

HFFA Research has now been commissioned by IAK Agrar Consulting GmbH (IAK) to help answer these questions as part of the German-Mongolian Cooperation Project on Sustainable Agriculture (DMKNL). Implemented by IAK Leipzig, the DMKNL project is aimed at intensifying the exchange between Germany and Mongolia on agricultural issues, and at contributing to the promotion of sustainability within the country’s agri-food sector through providing analyses, strategy papers, advisory services and trainings. The DMKNL project is funded by the Federal German Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) through its general agent GFA Consulting Group GmbH.

In a short-term assignment for the project’s climate component, we have modelled the yields of spring wheat and potatoes in 8 Mongolian Aimags, and estimated their future development based on two different climate scenarios. Our results indicate that, over the coming 30 years, climate change will lead to a slight decrease in the growing yield trends for wheat and potatoes in the country, which will however stay positive in most regions. More importantly, though, climate change will contribute to considerably increasing variations in annual yields, leading to more frequent and intense yield shortages than has already been observed in the past – including their accompanying negative consequences.

 

In view of these developments, we recommend ensuring the food security of the Mongolian population by improving the ability of Mongolian farmers to cope with more extreme climatic conditions. Recommended measures include, for example: the implementation of adaptation options following the concept of climate-smart agriculture (CSA), better exploiting the potential of plant breeding and modern seed production, collecting more and better climate information and forwarding it to farmers in a way they can make good use of it, as well as installing sustainable water saving irrigation technologies, just to name a few.

 

An important finding from our assessment was also that in Mongolia, long-term experience and knowledge on cultivating arable crops seems to be still scarce, production practices are often not well adapted to local conditions, and – compared to other countries – many industries related to the arable cropping sector are still in their infancy. Therefore, a substantial knowledge transfer will be needed, geared at providing agricultural extension services and farmers with the necessary knowledge and information needed for successful farming under semi-arid and arid conditions. Organizing this knowledge transfer will be crucial to increase the resilience of Mongolian arable farmers to adverse weather events, and to consistently improve the food security of the Mongolian population in the face of a changing climate.

 

For more detailed information on this project, please contact us.