World Food Day: As the climate changes, food and agriculture must change too

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World Food Day: As the climate changes, food and agriculture must change too

©IFAD/David Rose

The results of climate change and environmental pressures are acutely experienced by rural communities such as the Dan Kada Village.

Oct 14, 2016 - To mark this year’s World Food Day, IFAD joins the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) today to highlight the impact of climate change on rural communities in developing countries.

This year's theme—Climate is Changing: Agriculture and Food must too—will focus on the difficulties of feeding a growing population amidst the increasing threat of climate change.

World Food Day 2016 comes at a crucial time, as food security and climate change continue to make both international and national headlines. Climate change endangers the agriculture and natural resources that 75 percent of the world's poor rely on for their livelihoods.

The world’s poorest people in developing countries - many of whom are small-scale farmers, fishers and pastoralists - are being hit hardest by higher temperatures and an increasing frequency in weather-related disasters.

2015 saw one of the strongest El Nino phenomena on record, likely exacerbated by the effects of climate change. More than 60 million people have been affected by El Niño related droughts, floods and extreme hot and cold weather.

Central American countries such as Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador are expected to experience vast food shortages due to irregular rain fall, drought, and severe dry weather.

East and Southern Africa (specifically Somalia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Malawi, and South Africa) have already been suffering from disease, undernourishment, landslides, mudslides, and extreme drought all brought on by El Niño.

The situation is predicted to worsen next year: La Niña is forecasted to bring heavier rains and flooding to the same high-risk areas, further endangering the livelihoods of rural people who have already been hit by the last El Niño event. Addressing the impact of climate change on food security is especially urgent, given that agricultural production must rise about 70 percent by 2050 in order to feed an increasing population.

"Small farmers produce the majority of the world's food. In some countries, they produce 60 to 80 per cent of food that is consumed," says Paxina Chileshe, Adaptation Specialist for IFAD's Environmental and Climate Division.

"These same farmers are also on the front line of climate change. When a climate shock like La Niña occurs, and brings extreme floods or drought, yields are reduced and rural people often don’t have access to the proper infrastructure for their agricultural businesses (roads, storage facilities, access to markets to sell their produce) to be able survive economically," she continues.

This year's World Food Day will call on countries to address the limitations of current agricultural plans, to adapt to the changing climate, and to continue to invest in rural agriculture as a means to ending worldwide hunger.  

Resilience and sustainability are key components of World Food Day's approach and IFAD'S Adaptation for Small Holder Agriculture Program (ASAP).

ASAP was launched in 2012 to provide co-financing for smallholder farmers that focuses on implementing adaptive strategies to combat the effects of climate change on agriculture. ASAP is targeted at "the least developed countries, countries that need more capacity, more resources from the public side to go into some adaptation measures," says Chileshe.

”We do an analysis of what are the key climate risks and then propose different measures based on their farming systems and asset base. We are usually dealing with either floods or droughts or salinization."

By hosting and organizing events around the globe, World Food Day emphasizes the need for countries and communities to work together at  both global and local levels to improve our current situation and plan for the future.

Chileshe stresses that because climate change is linked to greenhouse gases, we all have a role to play.

''We can actually listen to the smallholders a lot more. I think they do have a voice that we need to pay more attention to. There is a lot we can do, but we have to find the right manner in which to do it," says Chileshe.

Other events coinciding with World Food Day include the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, a meeting of mayors from over 100 cities committed to developing sustainable and inclusive food systems.

Next month, the COP 22:UN Climate Change Conference will take place in Marrakech, Morocco from 7-18 of November 2016.