The Role of the Small-Scale Farmer in Minimizing Climate Change Impact

Climate Change and Food Security

The State of Food and Agriculture 2016 has made it clear that the agricultural industry is currently at a point in time where the actions taken by farmers, development organizations, and governments today will directly affect the livelihood of millions in the future. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that “in order to meet the demand for food in 2050, annual world production of crops and livestock will need to be 60 percent higher than it was in 2006”. The remarkable challenge we have ahead of us, however, it to not only end hunger by 2030, but to also limit the impact of climate change. We must put our most sincere efforts into making our agriculture systems and local capacity as efficient and sustainable as possible.

In order to limit the global impact of climate change, it is imperative that the global temperature increase remains under 1.5 degrees Celsius. 81 nations of the world have committed to combat climate change and to adapt to its effects by signing The Paris Agreement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Coming into affect November 4th, the committed nations will begin efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, adapt their energy sources, and to enforce policies that lesson their impact on climate change.

Climate change and food insecurity are very interrelated global issues; they each are negatively impacting the other. Compared to a projection discounting climate change, the world will experience a 5-7% crop yield loss by 2050. As climate change becomes more predominant, we will see rising temperatures that limit crop growth, loss of freshwater sources that negatively impact aquaculture, and heat waves that adversely affect livestock. Likewise, agriculture contributes to at least 21% of global emissions worldwide, releasing carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. These effects will vary regionally, but by 2030 will negatively affect all four food security dimensions: access, availability, utilization, and stability.

  • In South America, climate change will greatly impact hunger in less-developed regions. Much of South America will struggle in aquaculture due to fish species moving southward, much more frequent and extreme tropical storms, and species extinction. Tropical forests will be affected by water availability, and rainfed agriculture will experience higher crop losses.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa will experience similar problems to South America. Because 95% of crops in this region are rainfed, the frequency of extreme wet and dry years will drastically decrease crop yields of the small farmers. Fishery employment is expected to decrease by 50%. Plants and animals will also undergo reduction in numbers region-wide.
  • Climate change will alter Asia’s agricultural zones northward and will limit rice and other cereal crop yields. Many countries in Asia will see coastal flooding as well as a loss of aquaculture and freshwater resources. Similarly to South America and Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia will experience biodiversity loss.

What Small-Scale Farmers Can Do

In the midst of a problem that is generally regarded as a policy issue, small scale farmers have a large role to play in decreasing the impact of climate change on agriculture and livelihood. There are several key actions that must be taken to address the constraints on agriculture by climate change:

  1. Strengthen small-scale farming systems. Farmers must learn how to adapt practices to changing climate, build adaptive capacity in implementing effective actions in changing situations, and must
  2. Diversify both their agricultural production and their income sources. Farmers need to diversify their crop so as to be able to withstand weather variation. They must also spread financial risk by diversifying how they are making their living.
  3. Manage natural resources in a sustainable way. Farmers must implement sustainable growing systems, such as FAO’s Save and Grow model, which cuts down fossil fuel use and doesn’t exhaust their resources. Agroecological production systems also efficiently utilize inputs (i.e. recycling biomass).
  4. Improve infrastructure, credit, and social insurance. Improved infrastructure ties into more efficient farming techniques. Support to risk management and diversifying finances allows farmers to adapt to changes in their markets.
  5. Reduce gender inequalities. Women face disparities in responsibilities, knowledge, and training opportunities in farming innovation. Rural women also face an increased workload when freshwater becomes scarce.

Though small-scale farmers may disproportionately bear the financial burden of reducing climate change impact, it is important to state that the costs of doing nothing greatly outweigh the costs of implementing these interventions. FAO’s Director-General Jose` Graziano da Silva believes “We have the opportunity to end hunger within our lifetimes. This is the greatest legacy we can leave to future generations”. Our actions today can lessen the impact of climate change and ensure a productive food system for the future.

UNICEF Calls for Innovation

Screenshot 2015-11-12 at 4.08.31 PMThis year’s State of the World’s Children Report has been published and it is calling for innovation. While it is a fact that remarkable progress has been done towards the protection and promotion of children’s rights, an unfortunate amount of children still exist whose rights are continuously violated and are regularly experiencing the tragic repercussion of poverty and malnutrition. The State of the World’s Children Report – Reimagine the future: Innovation for every child, expresses the need for cooperation from the global community to find advanced and unconventional ways to address the age-old problem that is still affecting the lives of the innocent children all over the world, which is poverty and malnutrition.

(See table at the bottom of this post with a quick summary of statistics in Hunger Project program countries.)

Poverty begins prior to the birth of the child, increases across the life course and onto the succeeding generation. It is a cycle of deprivation. A child living in poverty does not only mean being deprived from an access to material goods, it is also a deprivation of life, health, cognitive development, education and opportunities. While an adult may experience poverty temporarily, for children, the consequence can last a lifetime.

Poverty is associated with malnutrition. According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, the poorest 20 per cent of the world’s children are twice as likely as the richest 20 per cent to be stunted by poor nutrition and to die before their fifth birthday. Stunting is one of the many manifestations of malnutrition. It is a form of growth failure. Stunting commence prior to the birth of a child. Poor maternal nutrition, inadequate feeding practices, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, non-exclusive breastfeeding and clinical and subclinical infections or diseases are causative agents of stunting. Not only poverty has an awful repercussion to a child’s health, it also deprives a child’s fundamental right to life.

Poverty also plays a huge role when it comes to a child’s cognitive development. Children living in poverty are most likely to encounter learning disabilities and developmental delays. According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, nearly 9 in 10 children from the wealthiest 20 per cent of households in the world’s least developed countries attend primary school – compared to only about 6 in 10 from the poorest households. Children who are stunted are most likely to have poor performance in school and have higher chances of dropping out. They are unable to reach their full potential because of the procured learning impediment. Some children choose to drop out of school and prefer to start working at a very young age for the reason that they are able to contribute to their family’s income.

Poverty persists to be a driving force of child marriage. Seldom families get their daughters to marry before 18 because it reduces the family expenses. Many communities also practice economic transactions like “bride price,” where the family receives money or livestock in exchange for their daughter. This practice often results to girls not being able to obtain an education. UNICEF reported that for every 100 boys in secondary school, only 76 girls are enrolled. The cycle of poverty is an often product of child marriage. Because of early marriage and pregnancy, girls are forced to drop out of school, making it harder for them to escape the awful consequences of poverty.

The Hunger Project recognizes the significance of nutrition for the eradication of world hunger and poverty. At the Hunger Project’s epicenters, health care professionals explain the basics of nutrition for both children and mothers and the importance of pre- and postnatal care to women. Women also have access to antenatal care services in the epicenter and children also have access to the epicenter nursery schools and are guaranteed to a full nutritious meal every day they are in attendance. The Hunger Project also partners with more than 100 organizations representative of governments, civil society, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and the research community dedicated to the eradication of malnutrition and poverty.

Others fail to see the correlation between nutrition and poverty. To some, it is mere financial inequity. They fail to see the bigger picture of how one factor leads to the other. Children who are living in poverty are much more likely to be in poverty later in life and is likely to shepherd the next generation to go through the same vicious way of life. Not unless the cycle is being cut, helpless and innocent children are relentlessly punished of this deprivation.

According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, all children must have an equal chance to make the most of their potential. The report features people across the world who went the extra mile and applied unorthodox approaches to further the progress. The global community must prioritize the children and fully dismantle the numerous hindrances to achieve innovation and ultimately achieve a future in which children from all corners of the world can enjoy their rights.

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The State Of Food And Agriculture 2014: Innovation in family farming

SOFA-2014-cover-web-en_01FAO’s 2014 report on The State Of Food and Agriculture (SOFA 2014) focuses on the vital role of family farms for food security, poverty reduction, and environmental sustainability. The report states more than 500 million family farms manage the majority of the world’s agricultural land  and produce most of the world’s food. That group constitutes 90% of the world’s farmers. Family farms occupy around 70 – 80 percent of farmland and produce more than 80 percent of the world’s food in value terms.

The vast majority of the world’s farms are small and in many lower-income countries farm sizes are shrinking. Globally, farms of less than 5 hectare account for 94 percent of all farms but control only 19 percent of all agricultural land. In contrast, only 1 percent of all farms in the world are larger than 50 hectares, but these few farms control 65 percent of the world’s agricultural land. Many of these large farms are family-owned and operated.

In most countries, small and medium-sized farms tend to have higher agricultural crop yields per hectare than larger farms because they manage resources and use labor more effectively, however they produce less per worker. SOFA 2014 assesses the innovation needed to improve labor productivity. The development, adaptation and application of new technologies and farm management practices, and the wider application of existing technologies and practices, are cited as the pathways towards efficiency in labor productivity, natural resource management and environmental
sustainability as well as food security.

The report sets the following prerequisite circumstances as a backdrop for family farming innovation;

  • Family farms are an extremely diverse group, and innovation systems must take this diversity into account.
  • The challenges facing agriculture and the institutional environment for agricultural innovation are far more complex than ever before; the world must create an innovation system that embraces this complexity
  • Public investment in agricultural research and development and extension and advisory services should be increased and refocused to emphasize sustainable intensification and closing yield and labor productivity gaps.
  • All family farmers need an supportive environment for innovation, including good governance, stable macroeconomic conditions, transparent legal and regulatory regimes, secure property rights, risk management tools and market infrastructure
  • Capacity to innovate in family farming must be promoted at multiple levels.
  • Individual innovation capacity must be developed through investment in education and training.
  • Effective and inclusive producers’ organizations can support the innovation of their members.

According to FAO 2014 is the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF), which aims to highlight the role of family farmers in achieving food security and sustainable development.

Below is a sample table showing the agricultural labor productivity of THP program countries and the world based on income grouping. 

You can review the complete report here!

Average annual level(Constant 2004–06 international dollars) Average annual rate of change(Percentage)
Countries 1981–1991     1991– 2001    2001–2012 1981–1991     1991– 2001   2001–2012
Low income 416                419                  490 –0.2                    0.7                 1.9
Lower middle  income 937                902                  1057 1.4                      0.5                 2.3
Upper Middle income 720                1003                 1454 1.3                      3.7                 3.5
World 1141               1261                1535 0.4                      1.7                 2.1
Low and middle income 755                 879                  1144 1.2                      2.2                 2.8
Bangladesh 333                 378                  537 0.2                      2.9                 3.6
Benin 658                 831                  1046 2.0                      3.9                 1.4
Bolivia 1194                1362               1530 1.5                       0.8                1.2
Burkina Faso 270                  334                 370 3.9                       0.4               –0.7
Ethiopia                        216                  265                            0.9                 2.6
Ghana 615                  841                 1010 2.6                       1.6                 1.8
India 555                 658                  763 1.8                       1.5                 2.7
Malawi 319                 344                  494 –1.6                      5.9                 3.9
Mexico 2390               2803                 3797 0.5                        2.9                 2.6
Mozambique 202                 210                  267 –0.7                      4.2                 3.1
Peru 1304               1401                 2000 –0.6                      4.1                 3.7
Senegal 370                 337                  328 0.0                        0.4                 1.7
Uganda 502                 504                  517 –0.2                     0.5               –1.1