It is not only the natural variability in the Earth’s climate, but also human-induced climate change that will challenge us. Increasing amounts of invisible greenhouse gases are slowly raising the temperature of the atmosphere. As the Earth warms, sea levels rise, Arctic sea-ice retreats, rainfall increases, and droughts are more severe. There is already a solid basis for the global provision of climate services. This includes existing weather and climate observation systems, data exchange, climate research programmes and risk management techniques.
A recent study on the potential for agriculture in Africa concluded that, in many African countries, only agriculture has sufficient scale to increase economic growth significantly over the near future. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has identified agriculture as a priority sector with a US$ 250 billion programme of investments between 2002–2015. It is likely that arid and semi-arid regions, mainly in continental areas, will experience increased water stress. This will affect food production, markets and food security. Historical climate data and scenarios of future climate, coupled with agricultural data, are already in high demand to identify hotspots and to explore agricultural alternatives. In order to be relevant, this information must be downscaled to meet national and community needs.