News / Africa

Ensuring Food Security, Tackling Climate Change

Smallholder agroforestry in Kenya is an example of sustainable intensification, according to Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change report.
Smallholder agroforestry in Kenya is an example of sustainable intensification, according to Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change report.
Joe DeCapua

A high-level international panel has announced its recommendations for achieving food security while addressing the effects of climate change. The recommendations from the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change released Wednesday come in advance of the U.N. climate change conference this month in Durban, South Africa.

The panel includes scientists from 13 countries who are experts in agriculture, climate, economics, trade, nutrition and ecology. It spent the past year analyzing many climate studies – a year that included climbing food prices, humanitarian disasters and political unrest -- all of which, it says, threaten food security. The panel says climate change will only make things worse.

“The current situation is just unacceptable. A large portion of the human population is food insecure and were vulnerable to food insecurity. A billion people or so go hungry and that is genuine poverty. And something on the order of another billion people don’t have appropriate nutrition. It’s seen and it’s arguably ironic that at the same time there [are] about a billion people or so who are suffering from chronic disease due to over consumption,” said Professor John Beddington, commission chair and Britain’s chief scientific advisor.

Soaring commodity prices, he said, have pushed more people into poverty.

“We’ve seen in the last two or three years significant price spikes, following on decades of declines in real food prices. And those spikes have really presented real problems, exacerbating poverty. Something of the order of a hundred million people went into poverty following the 2007/8 price spike – another 40 or so million went into poverty after the 2010/11 price spike,” he said.

Professor Beddington said the effects of climate change can already be seen but warns there’s more to come.

Lasting effects, growing needs

“The greenhouse gases already in our atmosphere will drive climate change for the next two or three decades. We’re going to see, and all models, and indeed all analyses, indicate that there’s already a trend that we’re going to see more extreme events -- high temperatures, droughts, floods -- and actually these are already becoming more frequent. And we can expect these more severe events leading to really difficult social, economic and ecologic consequences,” he said

The prolonged drought in the Horn of Africa is given as one example. Droughts in the region have become much more frequent.

The current world population stands at seven billion. It’s forecast to increase to nine billion by the year 2050. Commission member Megan Clarke, head of Australia’s national science agency, said a lot more food will be needed.

“The challenge that’s ahead of us globally is really quite hard even to comprehend because we must increase global food production by 2050 by some 30 to 80 percent and reduce our emissions by half. So to put it another way, as my children grow older over the next 60 years, we’ll need to produce as much food [as] has ever been produced in human history. And at the same time, during the period, we’ll have to learn how to halve our emission rate from agriculture. So this is a huge challenge,” she said.

There are many regions, she said, where the amount of food being produced is well below the amount that could be produced.

“In much of sub-Saharan Africa, we know that we can use really small doses of fertilizer at the base of individual plants and improve productivity. And we could also reduce the amount of fertilizer used. Similar, we know in China that there’s evidence that the current levels of high rates of fertilizer use can be reduced. And we can reduce nitrous oxide emissions and maintain our productivity,” she said.

Following the recent food supply and price crises, world leaders pledged to invest much more in agriculture, especially smallholder agriculture. While some investments have been made, many experts and agriculture-related agencies say a great deal more is needed.

Commission member Adrian Fernandez, head of Mexico’s National Institute of Ecology, said funding is an issue that cannot be ignored.

“This is one of the big topics that will be discussed in Durban. Financing – how can we mobilize much more resources to address the problems of climate change? -- in this case related to such an important issue, which is food security and agricultural production,” he said.

What to do?

The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change has released seven recommendations. They include integrating food security and sustainable agriculture into both global and national policies; raising the level of agricultural investment; sustainably increasing agricultural production while reducing the environmental impact; and assisting vulnerable populations to adapt to climate change and food insecurity.

Other recommendations are “reshaping food access and consumption patterns” to ensure basic nutritional needs are met; reducing the amount of food lost or wasted in production; and establishing “comprehensive, shared and integrated information systems” to track changes in land use, food production and climate change.

Most scientists agree that global temperatures are rising and that man-made emissions are a big part of it. But some scientists disagree and say human contribution to climate change is much smaller.

The U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban, known as COP 17, will be held from November 29th through December 9th.

You May Like

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs