188.8.131.52 Sensitivity/vulnerability of the agricultural sector
The agricultural sector is a critical mainstay of local livelihoods and national GDP in some countries in Africa (Mendelsohn et al., 2000a, b; Devereux and Maxwell, 2001). The contribution of agriculture to GDP varies across countries but assessments suggest an average contribution of 21% (ranging from 10 to 70%) of GDP (Mendelsohn et al., 2000b). This sector is particularly sensitive to climate, including periods of climate variability (e.g., ENSO and extended dry spells; see Usman and Reason, 2004). In many parts of Africa, farmers and pastoralists also have to contend with other extreme natural-resource challenges and constraints such as poor soil fertility, pests, crop diseases, and a lack of access to inputs and improved seeds. These challenges are usually aggravated by periods of prolonged droughts and/or floods and are often particularly severe during El Niño events (Mendelsohn et al., 2000a, b; Biggs et al., 2004; International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, 2004; Vogel, 2005; Stige et al., 2006).