Why partnerships are key to boosting smallholders’ resilience to climate change

By Katrin Glatzel and Gordon Conway

This article was originally posted by The World Farmer’s Organisation e-magazine. Read it here.

As we all know, crops, grazing land, fisheries and livestock are already negatively affected by climatic changes and extremes. The recent El Niño, likely to be the strongest on record, has affected the food security of a vast number of people across the world. Among them, millions of smallholder farmers in developing countries, who own less than one hectare of land, live on less than US$1 per day and do not grow enough food to feed their families.

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Credit: HarvestPlus, Zambia

Across Africa, achieving food security for all will become increasingly difficult, and governments are under more pressure than ever to boost productivity and accelerate growth. However, the agricultural growth and food security goals set out by the African Union’s Malabo Declaration have underestimated the risk that climate change will pose to food and nutrition security, according to a new briefing paper by the Montpellier Panel.  The paper, “Set for Success: Climate-Proofing the Malabo Declaration” argues that the Declaration, adopted in 2014 by African Union nations to double agricultural productivity and end hunger by 2025, is an important step in the right direction, but has failed to emphasise the risk for smallholder agriculture to climate change. [Read more…]

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What we’ve been reading this summer…

This summer’s roundup of eight of our favourite books, covering a diversity of topics including food security, nutrition, economics and climate change. Is your favourite missing? We welcome your suggestions and thoughts in the comments, below.

 

borlaugThe Man who Fed the world, Leon Hesser (here)

In this 2010 biography of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Norman Borlaug, Hesser depicts a remarkable scientist and humanitarian who continues to have influence today.

According to a review by one of Borlaug’s biggest fans, Bill Gates, “Although a lot of people have never heard of Borlaug, he probably saved more lives than anyone else in history.”

This book is an insightful introduction to a fascinating man with a message that continues to be relevant.

 

getting betterGetting Better, Charles Kenny (here)

If you need some good news this book is for you. The book highlights cost effective technologies and powerful ideas that are truly transforming the world for the better. Argued with optimism as well as realism, this is a chance to step back and appreciate some examples of ‘what went well’.

“Elegant and deeply researched- a powerful antidote to overly gloomy assessments of development aid-Charles Kenny shines a light on the real successes of aid, and he shows us the benefits that additional smart investment can bring.” – Bill Gates, Wall Street Journal

[Read more…]

Institutional support of weather index insurance for smallholder integration

By Christopher Au, PhD candidate, Imperial College London, and 2016 Next Generation Delegate

Originally posted by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, July 21st 2016

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Credit: Flore de Preneuf/World Bank

Growing Food for Growing Cities, by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, delivers prescient conclusions on the future manifestation of supply chains, as urbanization and wealth generation influence the structure and orientation of social activities. Currently, the quantity of smallholder produced food to meet domestic demand is underwhelming, primarily caused by lagging productivity rates. From a social welfare perspective, smallholder agricultural underperformance constitutes a drain on economic activity.

Stagnant productivity rates are in part due to sparse use of improved inputs, where uncertain crop performance and risk of lost income deters investment, locking smallholders into a low risk, low return production strategy. Uninsured risk prompts costly self-insurance strategies, stunting economic development, hindering poverty alleviation efforts, and preventing a meaningful contribution from smallholders to food security. [Read more…]

Finding hope in a gloomy view: the state of SDG 2

SDG report picBy Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

On 19th July, the first annual report on the progress of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was launched as part of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2016 is designed to set the benchmark for the next 15 years over which the goals will be implemented by evaluating where the world stands now against them.

Although agricultural development will have an impact on every one of the 17 SDGs, it is nowhere more evident than in SDG 2, which aims to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” So where do we currently stand against this goal?

  1. Nearly 800 million people are still hungry

Despite progress made under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), more than 790 million people around the world still suffer from hunger. According to the report, at the start of the new millennium 15% of people in the world were undernourished, and by 2015 this proportion was down to 11%. Although this is certainly progress, there is still a long way to go. Experiences from the MDGs indicate that, where countries failed to reach their target for reducing hunger, it was predominantly due to natural or human-induced disasters, and political instability. With a rising global population and a changing climate, resources such as land and water are likely to become increasingly limited, exacerbating these risk factors. This could destabilise progress towards SDG2, particularly in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa where, according to the report, more than 50% of the adult population face moderate or severe levels of food insecurity. [Read more…]

Mastering the last mile to food security

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

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IFPRI, Milo Mitchell

Is there light at the end of the tunnel for achieving food and nutrition security? According to Roberto Ridolfi, Director for Sustainable Growth and Development at the European Commission, there is not far left to go, but the journey still presents many obstacles to overcome. To him, the last mile is “the last inch between the fingers of the farmer and the seed in the soil.” On June 14th, the eve of the European Development Days, delegates congregated in Brussels at a workshop entitled Going the Last Mile: Accelerating Progress in Food Security and Nutrition. The evocative title conjured up different images for each speaker, which combine to create a path along this mile:

Step one: use the brain

For a long-distance runner, like Stineke Oenema from the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition, “the last mile of a marathon can be the hardest to complete”. The last mile is when the brain must be engaged to mentally, as well as physically, push towards the finish line. Similarly, now is the time to engage the knowledge of scientists, engineers, and experts in order to overcome the final barriers, such as lack of access to a varied diet or improved seeds, which allow food insecurity and malnutrition to persist.

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Credit: Scott Wallace, World Bank

Indeed, in order to create sustainable agricultural growth research is desperately needed, for instance to generate improved varieties of crops. An excellent example of the impact that this can have was delivered by HarvestPlus Country Manager for Rwanda, Joseph Mulambu, who discussed their biofortified high-iron beans. Not only can a portion of the biofortified beans provide half of the daily requirement of iron, but the beans have been shown to be drought resistant, inferring an extra advantage to those who grow them. Using conventional breeding techniques, HarvestPlus scientists have contributed a crop that is nutritious and can reduce iron deficiency while at the same time improves farmer resilience to droughts, which are likely to become more severe and more frequent due to climate change. This is exactly the kind of innovation that helps the finish line come into view. [Read more…]

Protecting Africa’s Backbone: transforming agriculture in the face of climate change

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

Smallholder farmers in Africa are already aware that the climate is changing. For many, the growing seasons are becoming shorter and more difficult to plan, because of erratic and unpredictable weather including droughts and floods. Often this means that crops fail or yields are lower and livelihoods are impacted with less produce to feed the household, let alone surplus to sell at markets to gain an income. Unfortunately, the climatic conditions are likely to only get worse, with mean temperatures across Africa expected to rise faster than the global average, reaching as high as 3°C to 6°C greater than pre-industrial levels. The pressure on African countries to boost productivity and accelerate growth is now higher than ever and is being further complicated by the potential adverse impacts of climate change and extreme weather events.

In this context the Montpellier Panel  has launched a new briefing paper today – Set for Success: Climate-proofing the Malabo Declaration . The Panel urges African governments to fully recognise the scale of the threat posed by climate change to smallholder farming and to build climate-smart agriculture strategies into their National Agricultural Investments Plans that will help farmers mitigate the risks and adapt to the changing weather conditions. The paper also highlights more than 15 examples of success stories and programmes that have been shown to be impactful and can be scaled-up. Building resilience will be key to achieving the shared agendas of the Malabo Declaration, the 2015 Paris Agreement, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To this end, the Montpellier Panel make the following recommendations:

  1. diagramSupporting the Malabo Declaration by building comprehensive information on climate-related stresses and shocks, both nationally and regionally, as well as their impacts on food and nutrition security.
  2. Mainstreaming climate-smart agriculture programmes into the next generation of National Agriculture Investment Plans to ensure a stronger focus on climate change and extreme weather events.
  3. African countries need support, through the African Union, NEPAD, CAADP and regional associations of National Agricultural Research Systems, to develop country investment plans that reflect a stronger, collective voice for Africa in international climate policy processes
  4. Facilitating African governments’ access to climate funds through the Green Climate Fund and other innovative finance mechanisms that will help countries implement climate-smart agriculture programmes.
  5. Improving Africa’s scientific capacity which will guide climate change adaptation and mitigation interventions in agriculture.
  6. Improving training for farmers on sustainable farming techniques, through improved extension services, farmer field schools and utilisation of digital technologies.

[Read more…]

Putting agricultural greenhouse gas emissions on the agenda, not just the menu

By Alice Marks, @alicemarks0

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Credit: Paul Keeris, 2015

The conference catering trolley: it’s usually piled high with unlabelled food, can be something of a taste Russian roulette, and is often left untouched. It can be a saving grace for the rushed conference attendee or keen networker, but can also seem like a terrible waste.

There will no-doubt be catering trollies at this week’s Climate Action 2016 meetings in Washington, DC, leading one to ponder if the menu and agenda will be in harmony. The summit comes just two weeks after the Paris Agreement was signed, and eight months since the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were agreed.

Happily, the agenda for this week’s meetings does include mention of agriculture, which is often strangely absent from high-level discussions about climate change. For example, the COP21 discussions were described as “‘Les Champs-Oubliés,’ or ‘the forgotten fields’” because they largely neglected to mention agriculture as a part of the problem or solution. Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from agriculture have nearly doubled in the last 50 years and currently account for one-third of all GHGs, or more than 5.3 billion tonnes per year. At the same time, agriculture and smallholder farmers are also particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, especially in developing countries.

Meat consumption is on the rise

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Meat production by region. FAO STAT, 2016

Of particular concern should be the rise in global meat consumption. GHG emissions from livestock production represent at least 14.5% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions. Enteric fermentation, when livestock produce methane as part of digestion then release it by belching, accounts for 39% of the agricultural sector’s GHG emissions, and rose by 11% in the decade between 2001 and 2011. Despite this damning evidence, meat consumption is on the rise. For example, the global demand for beef is projected to increase by 95% between 2006 and 2050 despite it being one of the most resource-intensive and environmentally damaging foods. Beef production uses seven times more resources, such as water, energy, and food or inputs than pork or poultry, and 20 times more than pulses. [Read more…]