The international community at the Bonn climate summit needs to take faster action in ensuring funds for agriculture in emerging economies like India that are geared more towards adaptation rather than just mitigation
Hunger is again rising globally after many years, particularly in developing countries such as India and its South Asian neighbours. The threat of climate change in lowering farm productivity would make the situation much worse unless immediate measures are taken to step up investment in agriculture so that smallholder and marginal farmers in poorer countries are able to cope with the altered scenario.
Although modern farming is a leading cause of global warming, it is also one of the worst impacted, requiring a reorientation on not only how food is produced but also on the production of raw materials such as fibre and bio-fuel.
Investing faster and further in agricultural climate action and to support the sustainable livelihoods of small-scale farmers will unlock much greater potential to curb emissions and protect people against climate change, sector leaders and experts said at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn. Small famers, herders, and fishing communities in developing countries provide the bulk of the planet’s food, but they are also disproportionately affected due to global warming.
“Countries now have the opportunity to transform their agricultural sectors to achieve food security for all through sustainable agriculture and strategies that boost resource-use efficiency, conserve and restore biodiversity and natural resources, and combat the impacts of climate change,” said René Castro, Assistant-Director General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
After declining for over a decade, global hunger is rising, affecting 11% of the global population, according to the 2017 the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, a report prepared by five United Nations agencies. This has sparked concerns that conflict and climate change could be reversing years of progress. In 2016, the number of constantly underfed people reached 815 million, up 38 million from 2015, an increase that has been attributed largely to increased violence and climate-related shocks, according to the State of Food and Agriculture report by Rome-based FAO.
According to experts at the Bonn summit, the ways to tackle the effect of climate change in agriculture include scaling up public and private climate finance flows to agriculture, which still favour mitigation over adaptation. It is also necessary to build capacity to address barriers to implement climate action because food producers need to boost their capacities to understand climate risks and vulnerabilities, and respond accordingly, they said.
As far as climate financing in agriculture is concerned, there is a need for better understanding of institutional barriers and market failures that inhibit broader adoption of climate-resilient and low-emissions agricultural practices in most countries. Scientists and grassroots experts have started deliberating on how to realign farming that adapts to a changing climate without compromising on food security.
The main aim of the Paris Agreement on climate change is to keep the average global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees. About one degree of that rise has already happened, underlining the urgency to progress further and faster to cut the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. For instance, emissions in the livestock sector could be readily reduced by about 30% by adopting best practices, according to FAO estimates.
Agriculture is an important part of India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) prepared by the environment ministry. The food ministry has accordingly prepared a National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) to boost farm productivity through integrated farming, more efficient water use, soil health management, and synergizing resource conservation.
Food demand in the country is expected to rise to 345 million tonnes by 2030, which is almost 30% higher than the actual production in 2011, according to National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NIAP), a state-owned institution.
“Vulnerability of Indian agriculture due to vagaries associated with climate change and low adaptation capacity of majority of Indian farmers poses risk to food security of the country,” the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture said in a report in Parliament during the monsoon session.
The challenge of climate change among small and marginal farmers in India is especially daunting. Although most farmers are aware of the changing weather patterns, their coping strategies are inadequate in absence of state support, according to a research conducted in Uttar Pradesh by Amarnath Tripathi of Institute of Economic Growth in Delhi University and Ashok K. Mishra of Arizona State University in the US.
“The main challenge, particularly in developing countries, is that farmers have the low adaptive capacity, as most of them are small and marginal farmers. It follows that autonomous adaptation cannot be expected,” Tripathi and Mishra said in their study, titled Knowledge and Passive Adaptation to Climate Change: An Example from Indian Farmers. “Even if adaptation were autonomous, it would not be sufficient to offset losses from climate change. Hence, policy-driven incentivized adaptation is required.”
The researchers found that farmers are aware of changes in climatic variables, especially increasing temperature and changing seasonal patterns, and impacts of climate change, particularly declining crop productivity, increasing the cost of cultivation and livelihood insecurity. But without the incentives by government action, they just may not be able to adapt on their own.