A UN report warns that without measures to halt and reverse climate change, food production could become impossible in large areas of the world.
Up to 122 million more people worldwide could be living in extreme poverty by 2030 as a result of climate change and its impacts on small-scale farmers’ incomes, a major UN report warned on Monday.
Climate change is “a major and growing threat to global food security”, said the report, warning that it could increase the global population living in extreme poverty by between 35 and 122 million by 2030, with farming communities in sub-Saharan Africa among the hardest hit.
The 2016 State of Food and Agriculture report, published by the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), calls for “deep transformations in agriculture and food systems” and for the world’s half-billion small-scale farms to receive particular support.
The report warns that without “widespread adoption of sustainable land, water, fisheries and forestry practices, global poverty cannot be eradicated”.
It adds that action must also be taken to reduce farming’s own contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
The 194-page report looks at the future of farming and food security under different climate change scenarios. It also looks at possible responses to what it calls “an unprecedented double challenge” to eradicate hunger and poverty and stabilise the global climate.
There is, it says, “no doubt that climate change will affect the agriculture sectors and food security and that its negative impact will become more severe as it accelerates. In some particularly vulnerable places, such as small islands or in areas affected by large-scale extreme weather and climate events, the impact could be catastrophic.”
In a best-case scenario, slow-moving climate change would allow farming to adapt through relatively simple techniques, at least in the near future. But it warns that more abrupt changes would make adequate adaptation almost impossible.
Possible consequences include major declines in crop yields and increasingly high and volatile food prices, it says. “In the longer run, unless measures are put in place to halt and reverse climate change, food production could become impossible in large areas of the world.”
The report cites diversifying crop production, better integration of farming with the natural habitat, agroecology and “sustainable intensification” as strategies to help small-scale farmers adapt to a warming world.
It says some current policies, including subsidies for inputs such as synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, could hinder the adoption of more sustainable techniques.
“Social protection programmes will need to play an important role – in helping smallholders better manage risk, reducing vulnerability to food price volatility, and enhancing the employment prospects of rural people who leave the land,” it adds.
The report comes as delegates arrive in Rome for the 43rd Committee on World Food Security.
On Friday, the FAO’s director general, José Graziano da Silva, warned: “Higher temperatures and erratic weather patterns are already undermining the health of soils, forests and oceans on which agricultural sectors and food security depend. We have seen an increase of pest and disease outbreaks everywhere.”
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