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.

Achieving Gender Equality though Economic Empowerment

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A Call to Action

In September 2016, the United Nation’s High-Level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment released its first report on the actions necessary to close the global gender gap in economic empowerment. The report, “Leave No One Behind”, emphasizes the unfair circumstances that disproportionately affect women in the workplace, i.e. wage gaps, job security vulnerability  associated with informal work, and lack of women in leadership. It also urges all economic actors to take the actions necessary to achieve economic gender equality.

Why Pursue Women’s Economic Empowerment?

The High-Level Panel is calling on governments, businesses, and development organizations to empower women as agents of change for their own economies. This contributes to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8, to “promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all”.

In the current global labor force, women are less likely to be participating in paid work compared to men almost everywhere globally, as “only one in two women aged 15 and over is in paid employment compared with about three in four men”. Not only do women earn less than men on average, but women also “take on more than three times more unpaid work and care than men”. They tend to work in the informal and agriculture sectors, which are less secure and protective of workers rights than male-dominated sectors, i.e. government and public sectors. 

Women are under structural pressure to sacrifice both education and paid work opportunities in order to support their families at home with childcare and housework (view a UN fact sheet on this here). Additionally, when women do have paid work while having a family, their wages are subject to gender discrimination. A fatherhood pay premium exists where “men’s earnings increased by more than 6 percent on average when they had cohabiting children while women’s earnings decreased by 4 percent for each child”. These double standards are crucial to overcome if we want to empower women in the global workforce.

Priorities

In order to create a sustainable, permanent impact on women’s economic empowerment, we must prioritize the seven drivers of change (the outer wheel) identified by the High-Level Panel: UN Women EE image.png

Changes must be made in all four work sectors (the inner wheel, consisting of: agriculture, enterprises, the formal sector, and informal work) in order to achieve women’s economic empowerment. Economic gender equality is associated with human development as a whole, higher income per capita, faster economic growth, and stronger national competitiveness. These advances are critical to achieving SDG 1, to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere”.

Recommendations

Unequal pay and discrimination must be eradicated in every economic sector, and women must be represented in leadership roles at every level. In the formal sector, governments must not only provide protection in hiring, maternity, and wage situations, but must also ensure that women’s organizations are given full representation. Businesses must support women’s enterprises and women as role models in their own organizations. Both civil societies and international development institutions must increase women’s participation, leadership, and mentorship. They must include gender-specific strategies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Women’s economic empowerment is crucial to achieving gender equality and the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The UN High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment has officially called on the world’s economic actors to achieve women’s economic empowerment, and we must work to end discrimination in the workplace for all women worldwide.

7 Drivers image courtesy of UN High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment.

View the original presentation of the UN High-Level Panel’s first report here

Image courtesy of thp.org.

How Are We Doing on the SDGs?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were conceived as a vision for the post-2015 agenda. They are an action plan to continue the work the Millennium Development Goals started. We are six months into the SDGs. Do we know what’s been accomplished thus far? How are we doing?

You can see for yourself how well the world’s progress on the SDGs. Bertelsmann Stiftung, a German foundation, has constructed an SDG index. The SDG Index has compiled information for 149 of the 193 United Nations member countries. Each country has updates for each SDG that pertains to it. While there are updates for every country, there is no guarantee that all the data is completely up to date or correctly classified.

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There is a digital report with the data and country dashboards. Additionally, each SDG has additional data points and insights for OECD countries. There is also an interactive map that displays a ranking for each country and SDG. Each country is given a score based on how they’re progressing, as judged by the official indicators.

This Index is not sanctioned by the United Nations; instead, these reports, indexes, and data sets are meant to be preliminary points for governments and other stakeholders. The SDG Index is a tool that NGOs, governments, and citizens can use to gauge priorities and challenges in their country.

A suggested next step for the SDG Index would be breaking this information down by district, when and if possible. A more geographically detailed report of information would be advantageous for local actors.

You can learn more about the SDG Index and report here and see more information here.