The pledge to eradicate hunger and poverty must go hand in hand with rapid transformations of farming and food systems to cope with a warmer world, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a new report, which was recently released.
Agriculture, including forestry, fisheries and livestock production, generate around a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture must both contribute more to combating climate change while bracing to overcome its impacts, according to The State of Food and Agriculture 2016.
FAO warns that a “business as usual” approach could put millions more people at risk of hunger compared to a future without climate change. Most affected would be populations in poor areas in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia, especially those who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Future food security in many countries will worsen if no action is taken today.
Further, the FAO, in the report, conceded that overhauling farming and food systems will be a complex task due to the vast number of stakeholders involved, the multiplicity of farming and food processing systems, and differences in ecosystems.
The report emphasises that despite the challenges, efforts must begin in earnest now as the adverse impacts of climate change will only worsen with time.
The FAO report also describes alternative, economically viable ways of helping smallholders to adapt and making the livelihoods of rural populations — often the most exposed to the downside risks of climate change – more resilient.
It provides evidence that adoption of ‘climate-smart’ practices, such as the use of nitrogen-efficient and heat-tolerant crop varieties, zero-tillage and integrated soil fertility management would boost productivity and farmers’ incomes. Widespread adoption of nitrogen-efficient practices alone would reduce the number of people at risk of undernourishment by more than 100 million, the report estimates.
It also identifies avenues to lower emission intensity from agriculture. Water-conserving alternatives to the flooding of rice paddies, for example, can slash methane emissions by 45 per cent, while emissions from the livestock sector can be reduced by up to 41 per cent through the adoption of more efficient practices.
FAO’s road map also identifies policies and financing opportunities for the sustainable intensification of agriculture.
Helping smallholders adapt to climate change risks is critical for global poverty reduction and food security. Close attention should be paid to removing obstacles they may face and fostering an enabling environment for individual, joint and collective action, according to the report.
FAO urges policymakers to identify and remove such barriers. These obstacles can include input subsidies that promote unsustainable farming practices, poorly-aligned incentives and inadequate access to markets, credit, extension services and social protection programmes, and often disadvantaged women, who make up, up to 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force.
In commemoration of World Food Day 2016, which was celebrated on October 16 , under the theme “Climate is changing: Food and Agriculture must too”, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder, while delivering remarks, spoke of the importance of chartering a new agricultural trajectory in keeping with ever-changing climatic conditions. He too acknowledged the importance of addressing the impacts of climate change on food security and echoed the call for immediate action in tackling the issues.
It is comforting to know that the current subject minister continues to advocate for climate-smart agriculture in Guyana, and has pledged to ensure that society implements measures to withstand the effects of climate change.
Agriculture Month 2016, which is currently being observed, also reflects on building a resilient agriculture system as a means to adapt to climate change. Even as Guyana maintains its status of food secure, there are pockets of food insecurity.
The Government of Guyana has committed to ensuring Guyana moves towards a more modernised agricultural sector with an effective and more sustainable system for ensuring food security, access to safe food and maintaining a healthy and productive population.
As the administration moves to provide a good life to all citizens, the fact that they recognise that agriculture has a major role to play in this regard is encouraging. It is now for them to take action so that Guyana remains food secure.