Achieving food security in the face of climate change – summary report out

Multi-benefit farming systems – such as agroforestry – should be encouraged to enable more productive and resilient livelihoods and ecosystems. This is one of several recommendations in the Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change summary report for policy makers released by the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change.

The report contains a total of seven key recommendations, stressing the importance of assisting vulnerable populations to adapt to climate change and food security issues. The third of these deals with multi-benefit farming systems which are said to empower marginalized food producers to increase productivity when combined with strengthened land and water rights.

The Commissioners are all high-level scientists well linked to policy processes that have spent the past nine months reviewing the evidence on what actions have the best chance of creating the agriculture and food supplies we need in the coming years of rapidly changing climates, demographics and dietary preferences.

“Food systems must shift to better meet human needs and, in the long term, balance with planetary resources,” says the report. “This will demand major interventions, at local to global scales, to transform current patterns of food production, distribution and consumption. Investment, innovation, and deliberate effort to empower the world’s most vulnerable populations will be required to construct a global food system that adapts to climate change and ensures food security while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and sustaining our natural resource base. Greatly expanded investments in sustainable agriculture, including improving supporting infrastructure and restoring degraded ecosystems, are an essential component of long-term economic development. The sooner they are made, the greater the benefits will be.”

The report highlights how the challenges and opportunities facing our farms, food and health are global – no longer delineated between “developed” and “developing” countries. Yield losses under climate change are anticipated in Australia, Bangladesh and Brazil. Rising food prices concern consumers in China, France and Mexico. Malnourishment is a problem in the USA as well as Ethiopia. A country like India has millions of people underweight while other millions deal with obesity and late-onset diabetes.

On the positive side, the report includes case studies from each of the countries and regions to show how policies that support affordable food, viable farm livelihoods and healthy environments can be brought to scale. They show clearly how climate change is a global phenomenon that nonetheless will be felt and tackled locally. Learning among countries will be one of our most powerful tools.

With the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban (COP 17) approaching, the Commission says economic incentives will encourage smallholder farmers to partake in sustainable intensification of agriculture. Combined with stronger land tenure rights, the incentives are seen as important steps towards the prevention of further loss of forests and grasslands.

The summary for policy makers can be downloaded from the reports section of CCAFS website and the full report will be released in time for the Climate-Smart Agriculture summit in Vietnam in March 2012.

Also see Food Security Links Us All CCAFS blog post

The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change is hosted by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.'

Kate Langford

Kate Langford is a consultant writer with close to 20 years’ experience in communicating natural resource, environmental and land management issues for various government and non-government organizations. She previously worked as Communications Specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya and has worked in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Scientific Communication.

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