Dr Jyotsna Puri
IFAD Associate Vice-President, Strategy and Knowledge Department
Continued changes in weather patterns, ocean acidification and “agricultural and ecological droughts” mean that threats to global food supply and distribution will only intensify in the coming years.
Last month’s IPCC report indicates that sea level rise, heat waves and droughts are all “virtually certain” in the coming 50 years. Climate change is already affecting food production and the livelihoods of people who make a living off the land and we are not doing enough to fight it.
Three-quarters of the world’s poorest and most undernourished people live in rural areas in developing countries.
Impact of climate on poverty
A changing climate is a risk multiplier especially for the poor – and poverty is still a rural problem. Three-quarters of the world’s poorest and most undernourished people live in rural areas in developing countries. Most of them earn their incomes working in the food system.
Small-scale producers receive less than 2% of overall climate finance. Increased investments to ensure they can adapt to climate change are paramount. Here are five good reasons:
- Small-scale farmers produce 30–34% of the global food supply and are vital for food security.
- Compared to large-scale farmers they can produce far more efficiently and in diversified ways. Not depending on a single crop for their livelihoods increases food security and income streams.
- Unlike intensive agriculture, small farms can work within natural cycles and protect biodiversity.
- Because small-scale producers also tend to grow food for their own household consumption, increased investments result in improved nutrition and farming practices with low-emission production patterns.
- If people can earn a living producing food in rural areas, this helps stem the flow of migration to cities that are likely to suffer increasingly from over-heating and crowding.
Investing in rural food systems also presents an opportunity for innovation. For instance, mechanisms that aggregate and transport produce to market can increase market power for small producers and deliver more efficient transport and distribution systems. This helps private investors realise returns from economies of scale.
Similarly, innovating with financial instruments such as ‘resilience bonds’ can generate both financial returns and provide impacts related to social and environmental benefits. This can help bring in scaled-up private investments into adaptation.
Unless greater investments are focused on rural people and their ability to adapt to climate change, we will not be able to ensure food security or insure ourselves against increased climate-driven uncertainty. But we have to invest now.