Stories tagged: food crisis

COP15 ‘Climate Thinkers’ Blog Features Farming First’s Thomas Rosswall

As part of its series of ‘climate thinkers’ blog posts, the COP15 website has featured an essay by Farming First’s Thomas Rosswall.

COP15 — as the 15th conference of parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is often referred — is where delegates will negotiate a successor protocol for reducing global emissions leading to climate change.  Its website has been a source of information and debate ahead of the negotiations themselves, which run from 7-18 December in Copenhagen.

Here is the text in full if you’d prefer reading it here:

Put Farming First

by Thomas Rosswall
Chairman, CGIAR Challenge Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)

Farmers are on the frontline of climate change.

By 2050, the world’s population is expected to increase from 6 to 9 billion people. Demand for carbon-intensive foods such as meats and oils is also expected to increase.

Meanwhile, yields from key staple crops are expected to decline, especially in many of the poorest countries, due to climate change.  Wheat yields in sub-Saharan Africa are expected to fall by 34% and rice output in South Asia by 14%.

In an earlier post on this blog, Kanayo Nwanze, IFAD’s President, outlines the link between food security and climate change.  Rather than repeating his message, I instead will focus on how this triple challenge of food security, rural livelihoods development, and environmental sustainability can be incorporated into future climate change strategies.

Silos are for farmers, not for climate thinkers.

Climate change impacts every link in the agricultural supply chain.  Smallholder African farmers already find new weather patterns undermining their traditional knowledge of when to plant and how to cultivate their crops.  Consumers, particularly in the developing world, still face high food prices and the threat of further price increases in the future.  Suppliers work around poor transport networks and unharmonised regulatory regimes. Scientists persevere in making their research relevant across disciplines and geographies as well as to farmers and policymakers.

The scale of this climate challenge requires all of these groups to work together with policymakers to find common objectives and solutions.  Farming First is a good example of an initiative which is already acting on this goal.  Farming First is made up of 124 organisations representing the world’s farmers, scientists, engineers and industry.

Farmers need roads; climate thinkers need roadmaps.

Agriculture generally, and farmers especially, are vital to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  Farmers are willing to play their part by adopting new practices which deliver our growing food needs in a carbon-efficient manner, but they cannot do so without our support.

Farmers cannot get to market without roads and other vital tools and technologies.  Effective infrastructure can help farmers improve their productivity, preventing deforestation and protecting biodiversity while supporting food security. We must also invest in knowledge sharing by creating a dedicated adaptation fund for agriculture which is accessible to farmers’ organisations in developing countries.

Addressing climate change through agriculture is certainly not beyond our capability, but it may well be beyond our current capacity.  Farmers need our long-lasting commitment if they are to achieve their true potential for sustainability based on the best local approaches.

The seeds of change must be nurtured and disseminated.

Many of the solutions for helping farmers address climate change already exist.  These successes need to be scaled up, and they must reach the farmers who need them most.   In addition to investments in road infrastructure linking farms to markets, solutions include integrated crop and pest management, no-till agriculture, intercropping, improved seeds, fertilizer best management practices and investment in storage facilities protecting crops after harvest.

But we must also use our current field of knowledge as the basis for further research and innovation to invent the necessary adaptation and mitigation solutions for the future.  For instance, researchers are beginning to use new satellite technology to determine what type of farming techniques are being used.  When matched with other agronomic and meteorological information, this mapping system can determine the amount of carbon being captured in the soil (the basis for a voluntary agricultural carbon trading scheme) and can supply farmers with more locally appropriate advice such as when to apply inputs, in what quantity to apply them, and when to harvest.

Copenhagen leaders should embrace the advances being made in measuring soil’s potential in sequestering carbon by including agriculture within multilateral financial mechanisms such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI).  They should also advocate for further robust methodologies and field-testing to overcome remaining uncertainties around measurement, reporting and verification.  At this critical and fragile interface of economic markets, our environment and human welfare, science has much to contribute.  Let us make good use of it.

Thomas Rosswall is the former Director of the International Council for Science (ICSU).  ICSU is one of the founding supporter organisations of Farming First.  Mr. Rosswall is currently the Chairman of the CGIAR Challenge Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture & Food Security (CCAFS).  He writes here in his capacity as a spokesperson for Farming First.

UN Report: Low-carbon Farms Can Raise Food Output

According to a newly launched UN report, low-carbon farming can both curb climate change and boost food output in developing nations. The agency’s report, “Food Security and Agricultural Mitigation in Developing Countries,” suggests that because of this fact, low-carbon farms must be rewarded under a global climate deal due in December.

In a Reuters article, Leslie Lipper, FAO economist and co-author of the report said that financing remains a major hurdle to greater implementation:

“A key part of the problem is a lack of financing.  If adopted by farmers, many of these practices make them better off, but in the short run they may face reduced income,” Lipper said, using the example of removing cattle to allow grasslands to recover.

In terms of contributions to greenhouse gas emissions, the report estimated that farms accounts for 10-12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions directly.  It also estiamted that $210bn would be needed between now and 2050 to help farms upgrade sufficiently to meet future yield needs.

Developing countries could raise about $30bn annually toward this investment through carbon market financing.  Measuring such improvements to the carbon efficiency of farm production is currently being researched.

Petition to End Hunger Coincides with World Food Summit

On 16-18 November the UN World Food Summit will take place in Rome. At the forefront of the agenda is how to address the world food crisis and increasing hunger levels.

Coinciding with the summit, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has launched, a petition to promote an end to hunger. The web site is premised on the fact that one billion people currently live in chronic hunger.

Jacques Diouf, the FAO Secretary-General, is recorded counting out the amount of time another child soemwhere in the world dies from hunger: 6 seconds.

To support the initiative, all you need to do is enter an e-mail address and your currently country location.

Dearth of Agriculture Research Funding Hits Farm Productivity

y5579e0iLast week The Associated Press shined a light on the global fall in agricultural research funding. In the article, the impacts of this fall are outlined.

Philip Pardey, professor of science and technology policy at the University of Minnesota, talks about the decline:

The ultimate consequences of the productivity slowdown are that we’re going to move away from a 50-year trend of declining real prices of food to moving back into a trend for increasing food prices.

Making agriculture R&D a top priority is key to ensuring, as Professor Pardey says, that food prices don’t increase.

However rising food prices have been a recent trend, according to the United Nations:

The U.N. World Food Program executive director Josette Sheeran said in Canberra on Monday that most of the developing world is paying more for food despite drops in commodity market prices during the global economic slowdown, with 200 million people joining the ranks of the hungry in the past two years.

By pushing on with greater agriculture investment funding, more can be done to battle against global food shortages and ensure more efficient food production.

Farming First’s Lindiwe Sibanda and Ajay Vashee Discuss Agricultural Development Support with Voice of America

LindiweIn a recent interview aired on Voice of America, Farming First’s Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda and Ajay Vashee spoke about the decline in agricultural development support over the past generation and how that has impacted the global food crisis, particularly in Africa.  Dr. Sibanda said:

“As a result of diminished resources and lack of funds for agriculture, we saw declines in productivity, we saw people moving out of farming to rely more on commodities like minerals, and rely more on imports of food rather than produce their own.”

Ajay Vashee also warned that the scale of the need is tremendous, and agricultural investments need to be sustained and expanded further in order to reap the anticipated outcomes.

The broadcast also addressed the structure of the Obama administration’s intended agriculture plan, which includes $3.5 billion over the next three years to help developing-world farmers produce more food and get their products to market.

Critical to heading off the food crisis in Africa is the prioritisation of research imperatives (per Farming First’s Principle 6). Joachim von Braun, Director-General of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, discussed the scale of the challenge facing global agriculture:

[I]f agricultural research and development were to increase from $5 billion a year to $15 billion, “10 years later we will have…300 million [fewer] people among the hungry poor. This is the largest benefit one can achieve with this type of investment.”

At a U.N meeting in September, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined the U.S. agriculture policy:

The strategy Clinton sketched out includes many of the elements experts say developing- world farmers need most: investments in research and development, access to improved seed and fertilizer, insurance programs for small farmers, as well as improved infrastructure such as roads and storage facilities to help farmers get their products to market.

The article highlights the fact that agriculture is a “good investment” for policymakers to make and that their efforts need to be farmer-focused and knowledge-based, aimed at diversifying the range of tools which they have at their disposal over the long-term.

Listen to the complete audio broadcast here:

[audio: voiceofamericafoodsecuritysibandavashee.mp3]

BBC Programme Looks at Global Food Security

The ‘Future of Food‘ is 3-part BBC television programme looking at how food production is going to have to evolve to adapt to increased global demand and less reliable access to key resources such as water and oil.

The programme host visits farmers in India, Cuba, the UK to look at how key issues such as water availability, climate change, and price volatility impacts their livelihoods and their ability to grow their crops.

The programme raises many of the questions and concerns which the Farming First plan aims to address.  It also suggests that the issue of food security is one that is increasingly capturing the attention of more mainstream audiences in the west.

For those interested, the second part of the series airs on BBC Two on Monday, 24 August at 9pm.