Climate Change, Food Security And Small-scale Producers

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Climate change, food security and small-scaleproducersAnalysis of findings of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the IntergovernmentalPanel on Climate Change (IPCC)By Sonja Vermeulen, in association with Pramod Aggarwal, Bruce Campbell, Edward Davey,Elwyn Grainger-Jones and Xiangjun YaoAPRIL 2014The findings of AR5 lead us to seven prioritiesfor action:n Urgency: since climate change is affecting foodand farming now, we need to speed up the paceof adaptation, and to achieve mitigation cobenefits wherever possible.n Investment: we need to increase the proportionof climate finance going into adaptation, and tosecure a flow of resources to locations andpopulations where adaptation needs aregreatest.n Private finance: we need creative finance andinsurance products to improve both riskmanagement and access to capital foradaptation actions, especially among smallproducers.n Value chains: we need to pay more attention tohow food value chains are managed, to dealwith climate risks, secure affordable andnutritious food supplies for poor consumers, andimprove the links for small producers andprocessors to stable markets, whether local ordistant.n Knowledge: since climate change is not static,we will continually need to generate and sharenew knowledge, extending the informationrevolution into fields, forests and fisheries inremote localities.n Breeding: we need to invest now in farmer-ledand science-led breeding, as it is demonstrablyone of the most effective adaptation measure tothe 2030s, and requires 8-20 year lead times forrelease of new varieties of crops and livestock.n Nutrition: we need to focus developmentinterventions on ensuring not just maintainedcalorie supply under climate change, but alsoenabling access to diverse food baskets.Farmers, businesses and governments around the worldreport growing impacts of climate change on agriculturalproduction and food security, and are trying to find waysto adapt to change. The chance to measure these real-lifeexperiences and efforts against new science is extremelyuseful, but rare. Released during 2013 and 2014, the FifthAssessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panelon Climate Change (IPCC) offers the first opportunitysince 2007 for us to appraise the global scientificconsensus on climate change drivers, impacts, adaptationand mitigation.This briefing note offers an overview of what AR5 has tosay on the impacts of climate change on food and farming– particularly the food and farming of the half a billionsmall-scale croppers, livestock keepers and fishers whoare most immediately dependent on agricultural systemsfor their livelihoods. It is based on two related sourceswithin the output of Working Group 2 under AR5: (a)Chapter 7 on Food Security and Food ProductionSystems and (b) the Summary for Policy Makers. TheIPCC’s Working Group 2 is tasked with assessing thevulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems toclimate change, negative and positive consequences ofclimate change, and options for adaptation.The briefing note starts with where we are at with climatechange in the 2010s, then looks ahead 15 years toimpacts and adaptation in the 2030s, before touchingfinally on the 2050s and beyond.2010s: How climate change is affectingtoday’s food securityUntil recently, the impacts of climate change have beenunderstood largely as a problem for of future, that willbenefit from advance planning. A key finding of AR5 isthat climate change impacts on food security are

happening now. Moreover, these impacts are not evenlydistributed – tropical areas that are most exposed toincreasing climate risks are also home to a largeHow have our knowledge and scientific methodsadvanced since AR4 in 2007?AR5 provides a far more thorough evaluation thanAR4 of the impacts of climate change on agricultureand food security. Key advances in scientificmethods over the seven years between the tworeports include:n A more holistic understanding of food systems,not just agricultural productivity, with integrateddrivers, activities and outcomes for foodsecurity.n Better analysis of uncertainty in impactmodeling, e.g. use of ensembles of climatemodels and systematic comparisons amongcrop models.n Greater use of historical empirical evidence onthe relationship between climate and foodproduction.n More experiments on the effects of elevatedcarbon dioxide that are done in the field ratherthan in greenhousesharvests. Globally, warmer water species have increasedas a relative contribution to catches by at higher latitudes.For example, in the well-studied northeast Atlantic,abundance of key species is shifting polewards,associated with rapid rises in sea temperatures in recentdecades. Meanwhile subtropical species have decreased.These changes have negative implications for small-scalecoastal fisheries in tropical countries, which employ themajority of people working in capture fisheries. Their foodsecurity is negatively impacted via smaller catches andlower incomes.Recent price spikes for food have been related toclimatic extremes in major production areas. Severalperiods of rapid increases in international food priceshave occurred since 2007, affecting consumers who arelinked into international food markets. Price increasesresult from multiple factors, including competing demandamong human food, animal feed and biofuels, but it isevident price spikes often follow extreme climate events,which have become more likely as a result of climatetrends. Poor consumers spend a greater proportion oftheir incomes on food, and thus suffer the greatestnegative impacts of food price rises.proportion of the world’s food-insecure people.Climate change has impacts on all aspects of foodsecurity. Evidence is now clear that climate change isaffecting food security for everyone, particularly for poorpeople. AR5 does not quantify the overall impact ofclimate change on current food security, as the task is toodifficult. Food security at national and individual levelsdepends fundamentally on how much food is produced,but also on distribution, affordability and a host ofadditional factors, such as culture and health. Climatechange affects availability of food, access to food,utilization of food and stability of food supplies over time.Impacts of climate change on crop yields are alreadyevident across several regions of the world, as AR5reports with high confidence. Although positive impactsare observed in some high latitude areas such asnortheast China and the UK, globally negative impactsare more common. There is medium confidence thatclimate change has a negative impact on net global yieldsof maize and wheat. By contrast, for rice and soybeans,impacts of climate change on current global yields aresmall.In many parts of Africa, maize will suffer as temperatures rise,but drought-tolerant varieties are already making a difference.Photo: S. Mann (ILRI)Climate change has impacts on the nutritional qualityand safety of food. Cereals grown in elevated carbondioxide show a decrease in protein and micronutrients,but ozone has the opposite effect. Thus, it is clear thatclimate trends directly affect nutrition, but there is not yetany confidence in predicting nutritional outcomes forconsumers. The key food safety issue for plant-derivedfoods with climate change is mycotoxins (poisons fromfungal infections, for example in stored maize). Intemperate and cooler tropical regions, mycotoxins mayincrease with rising temperatures, but in the hotter tropicsmycotoxins may be eliminated as temperature surpassesthresholds for survival of the pathogen.Climate change is affecting the current abundanceand distribution of freshwater and marine fishCCAFS INFO NOTE2


Tropical crops, livestock and fisheries are mostaffected by current climate change; regions of majorexposure to climate change coincide with highprevalence of poverty and food insecurity. Negativeimpacts of climate change on crop yields and on fisheriesare strongest in tropical regions. Livestock in tropicalregions are possibly at greater risk from climate changedue to sensitivity to temperature, water and feedavailability. These tropical areas of high exposure toclimate change coincide with areas of current low foodsecurity. The largest numbers of food-insecure people arein South Asia, while the largest proportion of foodinsecure people is in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 27% ofpeople were undernourished in 2010-2012. Food securityand local economies are expected to be at most risk fromclimate change in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia,Central America, northeast Brazil and parts of the Andeanregion.Greater exposure to climate risks increases thevulnerability of food insecure individuals andhouseholds. Increases in climate extremes, such asfloods, droughts or heatwaves, exacerbate thevulnerability of all food insecure people, AR5 reports withhigh confidence. Many small-scale producers (farmers,livestock keepers and fishers) buy more food than theysell agricultural produce, meaning that they are negativelyimpacted by food price rises. Small-scale producers tendto respond to climate risks by increasing off-farmemployment where possible, and reducing consumption.Reductions in food consumption include switching tomore calorie-dense but nutrient-poor foods. Reductions inconsumption of non-food items such as health andeducation, raise the likelihood of long-term negativeoutcomes on wellbeing and food security.Farmers are already adapting to climate change.Observed adaptation include shifts in planting dates, useof different crop cultivars and species, and adjustments tomarketing arrangements. Adaptations may needsubstantial technology or knowledge to implement; forexample early sowing is enabled by improvements inmachinery and by the use of techniques such as drysowing and seed priming.Another adaptation withproven efficacy in specific circumstances is provision ofmulti-scale climate forecasts to inform crop riskmanagement. Indigenous knowledge (as opposed toscientific knowledge) is important to both climate riskmanagement and food security but its contribution issometimes limited by policies and regulations. Climatechange may be diminishing reliance on indigenousknowledge in some places, as climatic conditions movebeyond recent human experience.CCAFS INFO NOTE2030s: Options for adaptation as climatechange advancesLooking forward to the 2030s – a realistic planninghorizon for many farmers, governments and businessesin the food sector – AR5 anticipates increasing impacts ofclimate change on agriculture and food. Adaptationbecomes increasingly important. Chapter 7 of WG2defines adaptation as “reductions in risk and vulnerabilitythrough the actions of adjusting practices, processes andcapital”, and notes that adaptation is as much aboutinstitutional change as technical change. The manyadaptations that farming systems can undertake in thenext couple of decades need to respond not only toclimate risks, but to other pressures on food such asgrowing populations and increasing per capitaconsumption. Small-scale producers will be hardest hit byclimate change and will need considerable support toadapt.Irrigation of food crops during the dry season in droughtaffected Nicaragua is possible thanks to special reservoirs tocapture and store excess rainwater during the country's rainyseason. Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT).Climate risks will continue to multiply threats to poorproducers in rural areas. Rural areas will continue to behome to the majority of poor people for at least the nextfew decades, even as population growth is higher inurban areas. Livelihoods in rural areas will continue to bein large part dependent on agriculture, while climate risksto agriculture are expected to increase. Greater exposureto climate risk, without insurance, leads small-scaleproducers to: (1) prefer low-risk, low-return subsistencecrops over high-risk, high-return cash crops (2) be lesslikely to apply fertilizer or other purchased inputs and (3)defer adoption of new technologies. Together theseresponses will increasingly reduce both current and futurefarm profits, and thus increase food insecurity amongalready poor rural populations.4


Overall, decreases in crop yields are more likely thanincreases, including in temperate regions, and evenwith only moderate warming. With or withoutadaptation, negative climate-related decreases in yieldsbecome likely from the 2030s, with changes of 0 to -2%per decade in median yield. Without adaptation, localtemperature increases of more than 1 C above preindustrial temperatures are expected to reduce yields ofwheat, rice and maize in both tropical and temperateregions. Projected yield decreases are larger in tropicalthan in temperate regions. South Asia and SouthernAfrica are two regions that without adaptation mightundergo greatest yield declines among important crops.Some specific locations may benefit from moderatewarming, particularly in northern temperate countries.productivity and animal welfare. Climate change will alsoalter the water resources available for livestock.Multiple adaptations are possible in livestockproduction, and these largely build on long-termexperience in managing climate risks. Key adaptationsfor small-scale producers include matching stocking rateswith pasture production, switching to more suitablebreeds or species, managing the age structure of herdsdifferently, adjusting water point usage to altered patternsof forage availability, managing diet quality, more effectiveuse of silage, pasture rotation, fire management,changing the balance of cropping and livestock in farmingsystems, migratory pastoralist activities, and interventionsto monitor and manage the spread of pests, weeds anddiseases. Combinations of adaptation actions will tend towork better than single interventions.Changes in water quantity and quality will result insignificant changes in fisheries and aquaculture.Changing precipitation, affected groundwater and riverflows, sea level rise, melting glaciers and oceanacidification are all expected to have consequences forcapture fisheries and aquaculture. For example, mollusks,which comprise 24% of global aquaculture production, willbe negatively affected by the impacts of oceanacidification on shell formation. Extreme climatic eventsare anticipated to have major impacts on low altitudecoastal aquaculture, while marine fisheries will suffermore lost working days due to bad weather.A farmer inspects his millet crop in Ghana's Upper WestRegion, which has suffered failed rains and risingtemperatures. Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT).Benefits of adaptations in crop management areroughly 15 to 18% of current yields for major cereals.Projected benefits of adaptation are greater for crops intemperate than in tropical regions. Different adaptationoptions offer different benefits to yields: switchingvarieties gives a median benefit of 23%, compared to 3%for optimizing irrigation or 1% for increasing fertilizer use.The benefits of switching to new varieties suggest thatgene banks and breeding of heat-tolerant and droughttolerant varieties are priorities for adaptation investments.Other adaptations with demonstrable benefits includewater harvesting, storage and efficiency measures, anddiversification of on-farm and off-farm activities to reduceexposure to climate risks.Increasing climate change impacts on livestockinclude quality and quantity of feed, and heat andwater stress. Pasture provides more than half of animalfeed globally, but estimating impacts of climate change onpastures is difficult due to the complexity of grasslandecosystems. Temperature is another important limitingfactor for livestock. Highly productive animals have highermetabolic heat production and less tolerance of highambient temperatures. Heat stress has impacts on bothCCAFS INFO NOTEAdaptation of fisheries and aquaculture requires bothinstitutional and technical changes. Key adaptationsfor aquaculture include improved feeds, breeding for heattolerance and acid-tolerance, improved site selection, andwater use planning that is integrated with other sectors.For small-scale fisheries, key interventions might includeoccupational flexibility, switching target species, restoringdegraded habitats, developing early warning systems,strengthening infrastructure such as ports and landingsites, establishing insurance schemes, and improvingresponsiveness to rapid change in fisheries governance.2050s and beyond: Longer-term outlookfor food security and agriculturallivelihoodsBy the 2050s, global population will have risen to around9 billion people and societies will have undergone furthershifts in urbanization, aging, diets and wealth distribution.AR5 makes it clear that it is from the 2050s onwards thatclimatic impacts on food security will be unmistakable,particularly in the context of societal change andincreasing demand for food. Tropical regions willexperience the greatest negative effects – and smallscale crop, livestock and fisheries producers will face thegreatest challenges of adaptation.6


International food price rises due to climate changeare very likely by 2050. Taking multiple climate impactstudies into account, AR5 concludes that it is very likelythat changes in temperature and precipitation, ignoringthe effects of elevated carbon dioxide, will lead to foodprice increases of 3-84% by 2050. Furthermore, cropdemand is expected to rise roughly 14% per decade until2050 due to rising populations and changing diets anddemographic patterns, placing pressure on prices of allfoods.Agriculture in tropical countries will continue to bemost consistently and negatively affected by climatechange. A synthesis of projections of crop yields acrossregions estimates an average decline by 2050 of 8% forAfrica and South Asia for all crops. Wheat, maize,sorghum, and millets will be worse affected than rice,cassava, and sugarcane. Also by 2050, at least half thecropping area of most African countries will have climatesthat are outside current experience in the country. In theIndo-Gangetic Plains, half of the wheat-growing area, oneof the world’s great breadbaskets, may be under heatstress by the 2050s. In general, the length of the growingseason and suitability for crops is likely to decline in alltropical farming systems where moisture availability orextreme heat rather than frost is the limiting factor.projections to sub-national levels will help adaptationactions, but tacking vulnerability may be even moreimportant. Factors identified by the AR5 summary forpolicy makers as influencing vulnerability include “wealthand its distribution across society, patterns of aging,access to technology and information, labour forceparticipation, the quality of adaptive responses, societalvalues, and mechanisms and institutions to resolveconflicts”.Interactions between water resources and agriculturewill be increasingly important as climate changes.AR5 notes that changes in precipitation will be importantfor the future of agriculture at sub-national levels, but thatprojections at local scales are uncertain. Changes inintensity, frequency and seasonality of precipitation,alongside sea level rise and glacier melting, will affectgroundwater and river flows. Impacts on fisheries,aquaculture and livestock as well as crops areanticipated, and increases in demand for water will needto be offset against demand from other sectors. Forexample, one study estimates a 20% increase in demandfor water by cattle in Kgatleng District, Botswana by 2050.Key knowledge gaps on climate change and foodsecurityFor local warming of 4 C or more, there will be limitsto adaptation and significant risks to food security.For crops, which are far better studied than livestock andfisheries, recent studies confirm several findings reportedin AR4, including that all crop species and varieties arelikely to experience yield declines with local warming ofmore than 3 C, even with benefits of higher rainfall andcarbon dioxide. For local warming of more than 4 Cabove pre-industrial levels, the ability of farming systemsand natural ecosystems to adapt is severelycompromised, with or without adaptation, posing majorrisks to food security.n Post-farming stages of food chains: Need morestudies on climate change risks in food supply chains,with development of cost-effective adaptation options.n Systemic and transformational adaptation: Mostresearch in adaptation in agriculture focuses on nearterm on-farm agronomic changes. Less is known aboutoptions for large-scale change e.g. in global productionareas of key foods.n Extreme climate events: Difficult to model but haveimportant impacts on food availability and prices atmultiple scales. Specific types of extremes, such asfloods, remain under-researched.Tropical fisheries yields may decrease by up to 40%by the 2050s, and small-scale fisheries will be hithardest. Projections based on continued high levels ofemissions (SRES A1B scenario) suggest a decrease ofup to 40% in fisheries yields in the tropics by 2055,compared to yield gains of 30–70% at high latitudes.Research also suggests that the flexibility of large-scalecommercial fisheries, for example in terms of their spatialrange, means that they will be better able to adapt andtake advantage of changing fisheries.n Ozone: The interactive effects of ozone with otherenvironmental factors such as carbon dioxide,temperature, moisture and light, are important but notwell understood.n Livestock production: Overall much less evidence todate than for crop systems; known to dependparticularly on climatic impacts on pasture or cultivatedfeed.n Aquaculture: Need for greater knowledge on howaquaculture is impacted as climate change, and itsvalue as an adaptation option for future protein supplies.n Wild foods: Almost no climate change research to date,aside from capture fisheries.n Pests and diseases: Changed geographical ranges areexpected, but changes in disease intensity remainunclear, whether for crop, livestock or fisheriesdiseases. Climate change impacts on soil organisms,including pathogens, are little understood.Uncertainties around future vulnerability of humanand natural systems tend to be even larger thanuncertainties in regional climate projections. To date,policy-makers and scientists have weak understanding ofthe socio-economic factors that determine how vulnerablepeople, farming systems and ecosystems are to climatechange. Improving the accuracy of downscaled climateCCAFS INFO NOTE8

Climate change will affect food security by itsimpacts on all sectors, not just agriculture. Smallscale food producers may benefit or suffer from food pricerises, depending on the balance between their sales ofproduce and their purchases of food. For a small numberof countries like Indonesia where (a) a large proportion ofpoor people are in agriculture and (b) the yield impacts ofclimate change are projected to be lower than elsewhere,climate change may result in a decrease in poverty andincrease in food security among farmers, as a result ofrising food prices. For most countries, however, food pricerises and declining productivity would outweigh thebenefits of higher prices to farmers. More generally, foodsecurity is largely an outcome of the balance betweenincomes and food prices for the majority of consumerswho depend on paid labour and marketed food. Thenegative effects of climate change on productivity of mosteconomic sectors is likely to reduce incomes and hencefood security.System-wide and transformative adaptation willbecome increasingly necessary in agriculture andfood systems. Most research and policy discussionaround adaptation in agriculture focuses on incrementalchanges, mostly on-farm and within existing systems offarming and food production. With increasing climatechange, there may well be a need for larger-scalesystemic and transformative changes, such as majorshifts in diets, food supply chain management, andlocalities of agricultural production. AR5 argues that theremay be opportunity costs in focusing on incrementaladaptation at the expense of systemic or transformativechange, for example in systems of land allocation,breeding of varieties that are functionally different fromwhat we produce now, and incentives for using land andwater for different purposes, such as ecosystem services.The time is ripe now for policy-makers to engage farmersand others in decisions and action to transformagriculture.Further Readingn Field CB, Barros VR, Mastrandrea MD, et al. 2014.Summary for Policy Makers. In: Climate Change2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.Contribution of Working Group II to the FifthAssessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panelon Climate Change. http://www.ipcc-wg2.govn Porter JR, Xie L, Challinor A, Cochrane K, HowdenM, Iqbal MM, Lobell D, Travasso MI. 2014. FoodSecurity and Food Production Systems. In: ClimateChange 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.Contribution of Working Group II to the FifthAssessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panelon Climate Change. http://www.ipcc-wg2.govSonja Vermeulen ( is Head ofResearch for the CGIAR Research Program on ClimateChange, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)Acknowledgements: Infographics by Guardian DigitalAgency, aided by James Norman at CCAFS.Disclaimer: This document is not an official product of theIPCC and does not constitute a summary of Chapter 7 onFood Security and Food Production Systems of the IPCC’sWG2 AR5. Other than the seven priorities for action, allmaterial is from Chapter 7 and the Summary for PolicyMakers of the IPCC’s WG2 AR5, and we encouragereaders to consult and cite these sources if they wish toquote material.Correct citation: Vermeulen SJ. 2014. Climate change,food security and small-scale producers. CCAFS InfoBrief. CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change,Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Copenhagen,Denmark. Available online at: www.ccafs.cgiar.orgContact: CCAFS Coordinating Unit - Faculty of Science,Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences,University of Copenhagen, Rolighedsvej 21, DK-1958Frederiksberg C, Denmark. Tel: 45 35331046;Email: ccafs@cgiar.orgThe CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is a strategic partnership ofCGIAR and Future Earth, led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). CCAFS brings together the world’sbest researchers in agricultural science, development research, climate science and Earth System science, to identify andaddress the most important interactions, synergies and tradeoffs between climate change, agriculture and food security.www.ccafs.cgiar.orgCCAFS is supported by:CCAFS INFO NOTE9

climate change on current food security, as the task is too difficult. Food security at national and individual levels depends fundamentally on how much food is produced, but also on distribution, affordability and a host of additional factors, such as culture and health. Climate change affects availability of food, access to food, .

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