The theme for this year’s World Food Day (16 October) is ‘Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too’. It’s an attempt to highlight the impact of a changing environment on agriculture and food/nutrition security.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), poor people in the developing world are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, due to ‘impacts on livelihoods, reductions in crop yields, or destruction of homes and indirectly through, for example, increased food prices and food insecurity.
And farmers around the world are dealing with climate change-related challenges, including higher temperatures, increased frequency of extreme weather events, and changing rainfall patterns.
Climate change is expected to lead to declining crop productivity and threats to food security. Maize and wheat productivity is projected to decrease by 3.8 per cent and 5.5 per cent, respectively, based on global climate model predictions.
Adapting to these changes by investing in and adopting innovative farming methods will be critical to farmers’ livelihoods and their ability to meet the needs of growing communities, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Nearly one billion people are undernourished globally and more than two billion adults were overweight or obese, according to the World Health Organization. At the same time, we waste one-third of the food produced annually.
While agriculture is the human endeavour most impacted by climate change, it is also a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. According to the FAO, livestock contributes to two-thirds of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and 78 per cent of agricultural methane emissions.
In addition, agriculture is the biggest driver of deforestation, which accounts for an estimated 10–11 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
But agriculture can also play a major role in reducing and even reversing the impacts of climate change. Carbon sequestering techniques such as no-till farming and use of cover crops can help sequester carbon in soils and maintain soil health, playing a critical role in climate-change mitigation and ensuring future food security.
The Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial, a 35-year farm study comparing organic and conventional farming found that ‘soil health in the organic system has continued to increase over time while soil health in the conventional system has remained essentially unchanged’.
FAO is calling on countries to address food and agriculture in their climate action plans and increase investment in rural development.
As representatives from around the world gear up for the UN Climate Change Conference, COP22, in November in Marrakech, Morocco, there is no better time than now to focus on the close relationship between climate change and food security.
GCI undertakes and coordinates research in Food Systems. Read more about Food and Nutrition Security through a Food Systems Lens