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By NBF News
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CLIMATE change could significantly alter water flows in major river basins in Africa, presenting a new barrier to nascent efforts to better manage water for food production and to resolve potential cross-border water conflicts all over southern Africa.

This was revealed in research findings presented at this week's Third International Forum on Water and Food in Tshwane, South Africa.

As part of a five-year global research project, scientists from the CGIAR's Challenge Programme on Water and Food (CPWF) examined the potential effect from now through 2050 of higher temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns, caused by climate change, on river basins around the world. In the process, they say, some unsettling scenarios have emerged for parts of Africa.

The Director of CPWF, Alain Vidal, said: 'Climate change introduces a new element of uncertainty precisely when governments and donors are starting to have more open discussions about sharing water resources and to consider long-term investments in boosting food production. To prevent this uncertainty from undermining key agreements and commitments, researchers must build a reliable basis for decisions, which takes into account the variable impacts of climate change on river basins.'

Particularly alarming are the projected changes in southern Africa's Limpopo Basin, which is home to 14 million people and includes parts of Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Using data averages from climate models by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, CPWF experts found that rising temperatures and declining rainfall in the Limpopo over the next few decades could deliver a one-two punch to the already marginal environment – depressing food production and intensifying poverty.