Ensuring food security under climate change will require adaptations that address food availability (production and trade), food access (incomes and rights) and food use (culture and health).

Ziervogel and Ericksen, 2010

Neil Palmer, CIAT

Extra facts

  • Adaptations addressing food availability range from improving storage facilities to securing formal credit, land rights, tenure and market access (input and output markets) for small-scale farmers. These farmers also need improved risk management (for example, through index-based crop insurance), support for traditional land management and knowledge systems and better communication of climate information.
  • Adaptations addressing food access include improved access to food aid following climate shocks and other social safety nets (for example, income support) and the implementation of policies that reduce food price variability and volatility.
  • Adaptations addressing food include those that support dietary diversity—diets should change with climate so that the food basket remains relevant to local cultural and health needs. Food adaptations also include the implementation of policies that address health threats associated with food safety changes under climate change.
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Methods, caveats and issues

  • Better risk management is crucial for households, particularly poor farming households, withstanding increasing climate variability. Formal insurance products can supplement traditional risk management measures, such as transfers of money and produce among families and neighbours (Hertel and Rosch 2010).
  • Food aid after climate shocks such as droughts can help the nutrition, growth and well-being of small children in particular. Food aid in Ethiopia, for example, can prevent a 1.8 percent decrease in the growth of babies (6 months to 2 years old) that occurs in the six months following crop harvest losses. Without this aid, the negative impacts of these events last for life, reducing educational attainment and earnings (Alderman 2010).
  • Food aid and risk management alone aren’t enough to increase the poor’s adaptive capacity in the face of rising climate variability. Rural development that addresses smallholders’ and pastoralists’ concerns by helping them to build their assets and resilience will always be the crux of positive climate change interventions in agriculture (Vermeulen et al. 2012).
  • Increasing trade within and between countries could be an important adaptation strategy for food security under climate change. However, better trade links do not always benefit poor people as they expose them to prevailing global food prices (Hertel and Rosch 2010).
  • Where incremental changes in farming and food systems don’t keep pace with climate change, transformative adaptation may be needed. This could include providing assistance to people transitioning out of agricultural livelihoods or migrating to other areas (Thornton et al. 2012).
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  • Alderman H. 2010. Safety nets can help address the risks to nutrition from increasing climate variability. Journal of Nutrition 140:s148–52
  • Thornton P, Cramer L, eds. 2012. Impacts of climate change on the agricultural and aquatic systems and natural resources within the CGIAR’s mandate. CCAFS Working Paper 23. Copenhagen: [CCAFS] CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. (Available from http://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/21226)
  • Hertel TW, Rosch SD. 2010. Climate change, agriculture, and poverty. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy 32:355–85
  • Vermeulen SJ, Campbell BM, Ingram JSI. 2012. Climate change and food systems. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 37:195-222
  • Ziervogel G, Ericksen PJ. 2010. Adapting to climate change to sustain food security. WIREs Climate Change 1:525–40
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