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[ABIDJAN] Researchers in Côte d'Ivoire have called for villagers across the region to be made aware of the negative effects of climate change and encouraged to pursue adaptation measures.

The calls came at a workshop held at the Regional Unit of Higher Education of Korhogo, in the north of the country earlier this year (18 May), at which researchers presented recent work on the impacts of climate change in the region.

"Data from 1970–2000 show that rainfall during the period decreased by about 12 per cent in northern Côte d'Ivoire," Bama Koné, coordinator of the research, told SciDev.Net. He added that annual temperatures increased by almost one degree Celsius during the same timeframe.

Koné said that the rainy season has shortened, while the dry season has become longer.

"Conditions in the region have become harsher and longer, vegetation has been damaged, many species are endangered, and many rivers and streams have dried up," he said.

More than two thirds of farmers have experienced a decline in crop productivity — particularly of highly prized crops such as sorghum, yam and millet — while 60 per cent have had their farms flooded during the rainy season.

Traditional practices have also been affected. For example, traditional doctors have been affected by the paucity of medicinal plants.

According to the deputy mayor of Korhogo, Salimou Coulibaly, villagers sow crops such as cotton, maize and rice, according to the lunar month. When the rains do not come, they worship fetishes and pray in mosques, all the while ignoring the negative effects of climate change, Coulibaly said.

Sidiki Cissé, director general of the National Agency for Rural Development (ANADER), is clearly concerned. "The despair of farmers is evident. Many farmers feel clueless about the [growing] uncertainty of the seasons."

Marc Kouame, a farmer — from northern Cote D'Ivoire — who cultivates okra, peanuts and cassava, said: "Because of the changing seasons, last year I lost half my peanuts. I had not planted them at the right time".

Coulibaly said that he hoped the results of the study would be disseminated to villagers to encourage them to change any negative habits and adapt to climate change.

Changes in practice recommended by the researchers include the reduction and regulation of charcoal production, sensitising people about the need to protect forests, encouraging reforestation, and digging clean water wells, in conformity with draining and hygiene standards.