Climate change, food production and food security

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Photo by 9comeback

Last week we introduced a study looking at how climate change will potentially affect crop growing in sub-Saharan Africa and how extreme the changes to farming methods will need to be in order to adapt. Now several recent articles researchers explain how food and nutrition insecurity is likely to worsen in the face of climate change and how we can prevent our food production systems from undermining efforts to mitigate the long-term climate effects.

A recent study in The Lancet, building on previous research, indicates that global food supply as impacted by climate change could cause over half a million deaths by 2050, largely due to a rise in undernutrition. While it is understood, at least to some degree, that crop yields will be affected, largely adversely, by climate change, the findings that it will also affect the composition of many people’s diets is relatively novel. The study also predicts the impacts of climate on diets will surpass undernutrition as a major cause of death.

The availability of healthy foods is expected to decline under climate change with consumption of fruits and vegetables predicted to decrease by some 4% by 2050, in comparison with a scenario free of global warming. And while this decline is likely to be most severe in low and medium-income countries in the Western Pacific region, the impacts will be felt everywhere including high-income countries.

And we are already seeing the effects of climate change in Southeast Asia and Africa where droughts have increased undernutrition in children, food prices have dramatically increased and crop production declined. Obviously since the poorest households spend the highest proportion of their income on food, low food availability and increased food prices will have a substantially greater impact on them. While meeting commitments made in the Paris Agreement will go some way to minimising the effects of climate change on diets and nutrition, governments will also need policies in place to address shortfalls in both production and in consumption. [Read more…]

Gene therapy for a changing climate

By Emily Alpert

Credit C. Schubert, CCAFS

Credit C. Schubert, CCAFS

The rains are too short. Or are they too long? The temperature seems to be hotter. Maybe the air is getting drier here and wetter there? For certain, the weather is becoming less and less predictable under climate change and African smallholder farmers are amongst the most vulnerable. Already, temperatures in Africa are predicted to rise faster than the global average causing significant losses to yields, herds, calories and nutrients.

Without a better understanding of the climate and how it is anticipated to change, smallholders risk losing their entire crop.  Without crop failure, simply poor harvests alone are enough to cause farmers and their families to suffer. Smallholders won’t have enough to eat, but they won’t have enough to sell either. Lower incomes will drive families further into poverty, worsen undernutrition and prompt coping strategies that lower resilience to shocks and stresses over time.

Supporting smallholder farmers to better adapt to climate change and build their resilience to a variety of risks – weather-related or not – can be done in a variety of ways. For example, better access to finance can enable farmers to invest more in their farms; better training can teach them how to sustainably maximise their production; and improved land management practices can improve soil fertility and nutrient management. Whilst all of these elements are crucial for supporting smallholders, they may not be sufficient to address the scale of the challenge. Genetic improvements to seed and livestock varieties that can tolerate extremes such as droughts, floods, and vegetation loss, however, may give them the right advantage. [Read more…]

Our Common Future under Climate Change

By Katy Wiilson

our common futureAt the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris this December, governments are expected to agree a new climate change agreement, setting the climate governance and cooperation regime for years to come. This agreement is planned to come into effect in 2020. Ahead of COP 21, the marathon process of negotiations has been bogged down in discussions of terminology and have, so far, failed to build expectations that we can expect any significant change.  After a meeting of climate change negotiators in Bonn in June resulted in little progress (only cutting down an 89 page draft text by four pages), co-chairs of the negotiation have now been given the task of making changes to the draft, which will be presented when they meet again later in July.

Ahead of the next round of negotiations, however, we will hear from the science community at the “Our Common Future under Climate Change” conference in Paris from the 7th to 10th July. The international scientific community will come together, assess and present existing knowledge, explore innovative solutions to the challenges and help prepare for the new climate agreement. [Read more…]

Farming for a better climate future

By Katrin Glatzel

While negotiators from nearly 200 countries gather in Bonn to shape the negotiating text for a new global climate change agreement to be finalised at the 21st COP in Paris in December, more than we can imagine is at stake.

UNFCCCWe are on track to reach a world that is 3°C warmer than pre-industrial levels by mid-century – which, in itself is a daunting scenario. Yet, this is not just a problem of the future –many people across the world are already experiencing the (predominantly) negative impacts of global warming. Crops, grazing land, trees and livestock are inherently affected by climatic extremes such as heat or drought. In some African countries, reductions in yield for some crops could be as high as 50% by 2020. These impacts mostly affect the millions of smallholder farmers in developing countries who own one hectare of land or less and live on less than $1 a day. These are the people most vulnerable, yet with the least capacity and resilience to adapt to climate change.

In order to secure a livelihood for the most vulnerable people, especially under a changing climate, there is an urgent need to make food security an integral part of the climate change negotiations. It is important to understand that climate change not only affects yields, but also the quality and safety of food and its delivery to consumers in both developing and developed countries.   [Read more…]

Mozambique ‘from the field’: Going beyond and scaling up

By Stephanie Brittain

Mozambique has overcome a prolonged period of intense civil war, and emerged as one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. Despite this massive achievement, it is still one of the world’s poorest countries with more than 50% of Mozambicans living on less than $1 per day.  70% of the population live in rural areas and agriculture is the main source of income, accounting for 29% of GDP and employing 88% of the labour force. Smallholder farms account for 90% of domestic food supplies. There is scope for development in terms of food and nutrition security as a quarter of children under 5 are underweight.

Working to tackle food insecurity and bolster the lives of smallholder farmers is the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). AGRA invests in creating change across the whole agricultural value chain, catalysing public and private partnerships to achieve breakthroughs in agricultural production.

I went to Mozambique to see some of AGRA’s projects and to better understand the impact that their work is having on the lives of smallholder farmers. This is the first of a series of blogs that will discuss some of the lessons learnt from this visit.

Zano Ramambo farmers’ organisation

After a tough 10km drive down a heavily eroded dirt road I arrived in the village of Boavista, Manica Province, where I was warmly greeted by the Zano Ramambo farmers’ organisation. For the past 3 years, this farmers’ organisation has been receiving support from AGRA and ADEM (Manica Development Agency), an NGO that builds the capacity of farmers and optimizes value chains for poverty reduction in the province.

Dirt roads erode easily making it difficult to pass during the rainy season

Dirt roads erode easily making it difficult to pass during the rainy season

The organisation was established in 2006 by 36 members, with an initial focus on cattle farming. However, in the past few years they have widened their focus to include agriculture and grown in size and strength.  Zano Ramambo has now grown from the initial 36 members to 60 members, of which 35 are women. The organisation established a joining fee of 250 MZN ($7) and a monthly fee of 10 MZN ($0.28) per member. In 2014, the farmers focussed on better organising their group by elected board members and setting up a bank account to help them better manage their profits.

[Read more…]

A Modest Proposal for Feeding Africa

ID-100136355In his recently released annual letter, Bill Gates has made a series of “big bets” for development. One of these bets, that Africa will be able to feed itself by 2030, is a view I also share. But I don’t think we need a big bet to make it happen. Rather, I have a “modest proposal” that I believe can guide Africa towards a hunger and poverty-free future.  I call this a modest proposal, as the ingredients that will achieve food security in Africa are already known to us, and we already have parts of them working. Currently, average cereal yields in Africa are a little over over one tonne per hectare. In China, they are three and a half tonnes. Here in the UK it can be up to eight tonnes. Africa has places where European-level yields could be achieved. That is not the issue. It can be done, the question is how….

Gordon Conway writes for Huffington Post. Read the original post here

7 key discussions around the NY UN Climate Summit

imagesOn the 23rd of September 2014, heads of state and leaders in finance, business and civil society gathered in New York City for the United Nations Climate Summit 2014. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon organized the high-level meeting, asking leaders to “bring bold announcements and actions to the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015”.

This summit was a critical step on the path towards a new climate deal at the 2015 Paris Climate Summit and ahead of the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties in Lima, Peru from the 1st to 12th of December 2014. As the world gears up for these events, we look at the key discussions and outcomes from the UN Climate Summit in New York. We also like this post – 7 charts that show why UN climate talks keep breaking down.

  1. Record temperatures

2014 saw Earth’s hottest summer with May, June and August all setting global heat records, as confirmed by scientists at NOAA and NASA. Although cooler in parts of the United States, Europe and Australia, August was a scorcher in the Pacific and Indian oceans and in Africa, and August and June were tied for the seas’ all-time highest temperature record.

  1. Peoples Climate March

As hundreds of thousands of people around the world took to the streets on the 22nd September ahead of the summit it was clear that the international climate change movement is back and growing in force. And the general understanding of how climate change will affect people’s lives has diversified from focusing on fossil fuels alone (although in New York protestors campaigned for the UN to cut fossil fuels) to looking to its impact on food, water, health, agriculture and jobs, to name a few. Oxfam spurred its supporters into action, marching to prevent climate change exacerbating hunger. As Joern Fischer on his blog, Ideas for Sustainability, noted about the London march, “This was a march that felt different to most climate events in the past. This march surpassed all previous events in size and commitment but is clearly only the beginning of a long discussion about how future generations should live in the world.”

  1. The role of uncertainty

Despite enormous public pressure and support for mitigating climate change, there are still questions remaining regarding the science behind climate change predictions and the impacts of drastic changes. One article notes the risk that significant cuts in fossil fuel use would pose to billions of peoples’ lives. In another article the uncertainty of climate science is believed to need to be better communicated, as widespread acceptance of what is presented in say the IPCC reports can prevent meaningful academic and policy discussions. While, in the future, agreeing a new climate deal is critical, agreeing the wrong climate deal would be harmful, and so the uncertainty in our climate future and the trade-offs presented by various courses of mitigating action need further discussion. [Read more…]