Ipsnews-Climate Change: In Africa, extreme weather conditions threaten food security for millions of people.
Climate Change: Complex Challenges for Agriculture
ZURICH, Switzerland, Jan 8 2019 (IPS) - The unusually hot summer of 2018 showed that climate change affects a central part of our lives: agriculture. The severe drought in Liechtenstein led to large losses in the hay harvest.
In countries of the Global South, the consequences of climate change are already much more drastic. In Africa, for example, extreme weather conditions threaten food security for millions of people.
East Africa has encountered droughts at increasingly shorter intervals in recent years, most recently in 2005-6, 2009, 2011, 2014-15, and 2017.
Apart from drought, the conditions for agriculture are also becoming increasingly difficult due to the gradual rise in temperature, salinization and changing rainy seasons.
Serious consequences include decreasing availability of food and increasing conflicts over water–both obstacles to development opportunities of the affected states and possible triggers for migration.
Agriculture is also the cause
Agriculture and the food system are not only victims but also causes of climate change. The term “food system” refers to the entire food cycle, from production to harvesting, storage, distribution, consumption, and disposal.
This cycle produces significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Paradoxically, modern industrial agriculture aims to intensify operations to compensate for the loss of production caused by climate change.
However, using ever more fossil fuels, synthetic fertilizers, and agrochemicals increases emissions of climate-damaging gases instead of reducing them. Industrialized agriculture causes additional problems as well, including large-scale deforestation, immense water consumption, soil compaction and erosion, chemical pollution of the environment, and biodiversity loss.
This exacerbates the overexploitation of natural resources and increases climate change vulnerability.
Carrying on like in the past is no longer an option
“Industrial agriculture has reached a dead end—there is no option to continue as before,” warns Hans Rudolf Herren, winner of the World Food Prize and longtime president of the Biovision Foundation.
The renowned agronomist and entomologist urges global agriculture to embrace organic, multifunctional, healthy and sustainable practices that take agroecological principles into account, rather than striving for the highest possible yields.
This option is now also recognized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as a response to the many challenges of climate change.
Diversity increases resilience
Climate change is a complex problem involving various factors. This calls for holistic solutions. These include agroecology adapted to the local political, social, and natural conditions.
An important principle of agroecology is the promotion of diversity. The more diverse an ecosystem is, the more flexible it can react to changes, recover from disturbances, and adapt to new conditions.
Diversified agroecosystems use synergies from mixed cultivation or agroforestry systems and rely on natural fertilizers from compost and manure.
Agroecology combines traditional and new knowledge. This includes locally adapted and robust plant varieties and animal breeds. Efficiency-enhancing measures, such as irrigation systems, are becoming increasingly important.
At the societal level, fair trade conditions and market access for all producers are important, as is responsible governance. The latter is necessary to coordinate and issue appropriate political policies.
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 11 2019 (IPS) - There is a Quechan fable about a hummingbird named Dukdukdiya. During a fierce forest fire, while all other animals stood in stunned fear, Dukdukdiya alone took action by repeatedly carrying a single drop of water in her beak to the flames. When asked why she bothered with such paltry efforts, she replied that she was simply doing everything in her power to stop the fire.
Over the past several months, the release of three global reports, each tied to one of the three Rio Conventions, has made many of us feel like DukDukDiya, battling the dual challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change with one drop of water at a time.
The Living Planet Report, released in November, put a point on negotiations at the biennial UN Biodiversity Conference by painting a stark picture of biodiversity loss, showing an overall decline of 60 percent in population sizes of more than 4,000 species since 1970.
A new atlas on global desertification, linked to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, portrays a world struggling to cope with growing water scarcity, land degradation and desertification. And just prior to the annual UN Climate Conference, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a special climate report that sent shock waves around the world – stating unequivocally that we have just 12 years to tackle climate change before largely irreversible and profound changes shape our world.