A new strategy will ensure that climate change – alongside other risks, opportunities and themes – is systematically integrated into core programmes, policies and activities
Over the centuries, human societies have developed the capacity to adapt farming practices to environmental change and climate variability. These adaptations include practicing shifting cultivation, adopting new crop varieties and modifying grazing patterns. But today the speed and intensity of climate change are outpacing the speed of those autonomous actions and threaten the ability of poor smallholders and rural societies to cope.
For most of the one billion extremely poor and hungry people who live in the rural areas of developing countries, agriculture is the main income source. These people are already vulnerable, and climate change will in most cases increase this vulnerability. While trying to cope with the effects of a warmer climate, agriculture is simultaneously facing two other challenges: it must almost double food production in developing countries by 2050 to meet population increases and dietary changes, and it must be central to efforts in greenhouse gas reduction.
Many smallholders with whom IFAD works are already reporting impacts on the key ecosystems and biodiversity that sustain agricultural production, rural infrastructure, market opportunities and rural livelihoods.
“This is why we say that agriculture is where climate change, food security and poverty reduction intersect,” says Elwyn Grainger-Jones, IFAD’s Director, Environment and Climate Change Division. “And it is why we developed a new and ambitious strategy to integrate climate change in IFAD. We want to ensure that, as an agricultural development organization, we maximize our impact on rural poverty and food security in a changing climate.”
The new strategy supports innovative approaches that will help smallholder producers build their resilience to climate change and take advantage of available mitigation incentives and funding. It also creates a platform for more coherent global dialogue on climate change, rural development, agriculture and food security.
New risks, new opportunities
For 30 years, IFAD has worked to help poor rural people manage their natural resources more sustainably, increase their agricultural productivity and reduce their vulnerability to climatic shocks (see box).
“Environmental threats such as climate change are inseparable from IFAD’s mission,” says IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze. “Agriculture can be part of the solution. There are many new sustainable agricultural practices that can be scaled up. For example, conservation agriculture can increase yields, reverse environmental degradation and emissions growth, build resilience and reduce poverty. Farming has too often been pursued as an extractive rather than renewable process – this is simply not sustainable.”
IFAD’s programmes will continue to reflect the complex reality of poor smallholder businesses, where issues are not contained neatly in boxes labelled according to global issues. And IFAD will continue to target its investments at the poorer and often most climate-change-affected people – whose livelihoods depend largely on agriculture and natural resources – particularly women as producers, and indigenous peoples as stewards of natural resources.
“IFAD’s new Climate Change strategy will go even further by ensuring that we think about the effects of climate change in everything we do,” says Nwanze. “We’re working towards a more ‘climate-smart’ IFAD, where climate change is systematically integrated into core programmes, policies and activities. The strategy includes a detailed results and implementation plan. While additional staff resources are being made available to make this happen, responsibility for its delivery is shared across the organization.”