by guest bloggers Matthew Fielding and Tom Gill
There are approximately 400 to 500 million small farms around the world. This implies that some two billion people – a third of the world‘s population – are dependent on smallholding for their livelihoods. Historically, such smallholders have adapted autonomously to environmental and climatic variations by, for example, changing planting cycles, diversifying crops, turning to mobile livelihood strategies such as pastoralism, or supplementing their income through non-farm activities. However, the speed and scope of climate change and the onset of its impacts seriously compound existing challenges to smallholders, especially with the lack of viable alternatives in sub-Saharan Africa. Read more »
by Cecilia Schubert
Without the ability to take risks, a farmer might not invest in new seeds and activities that could increase yields, but prefer to stay ‘safe’ and consequently underperform year after year. Having an insurance contract could enable farmers to try new types of seeds, innovative production technologies and invest in new livestock breeds, according to Professor Michael Carter from the University of California-Davis, and this could improve livelihoods and food security in the household and community.
Dr. Carter gave an in-depth presentation at the latest live streamed science seminar held by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). He discussed how index-based insurance is moving forward as a viable policy alternative to insure farmers against risks, and shared research into the role and potential of index insurance in rural development.
by Catherine Mungai, John Recha and James Kinyangi
Africa needs good case studies to showcase vulnerabilities to a changing climate and also good practices for coping with climate variability. This is the key message emanating from the recently concluded side event organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) East Africa Regional Office. From 10 to 14 September, the 14th session of the African Ministerial Conference of the Environment (AMCEN)was held at the Arusha International Conference Center (AICC) and brought together Ministers from 40 countries. The ministers and delegates met to discuss a common approach to engaging with the international community in the climate change negotiation process, in preparation for the upcoming UNFCCC climate change meeting, COP18 in Qatar. Read more »
by Ronnie Vernooy
Upstream and downstream, the operations of CGIAR centers face a range of policy challenges related to genetic resources. Upstream, a new research focus on developing technologies that can be taken forward by private companies requires striking a balance between providing incentives for private-sector engagement and maintaining maximum public availability for the goods that the centers develop. Downstream, greater involvement with formal and informal seed systems at the national level, to produce and distribute quality seed, depends on national level policies (and their absence) that can determine the success of these activities.
In our survey for the report Flows under stress: Availability of plant genetic resources in times of climate and policy change, we found that centers generally did not face significant challenges in getting access to proprietary technology from companies and research institutions. Instead, most difficulties arose where the centers provide technologies to private sector companies. Read more »
How do we scale up adaptation actions in agriculture, but ensure that they meet farmers' needs, are effective, and cost-efficient? A research project led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in the Greater Mekong sub-region is finding new ways to connect local priorities, to Government plans and resources. In four sites across Viet Nam and Lao PDR, farmers themselves are examining climate change adaptation priorities and costs within agriculture systems.
Caitlin Corner-Doloff, a CIAT researcher, explains: A new perspective on adaptation prioritisation and costing in the Mekong region. The story was published by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), which is also funding the project via Sumernet, the Sustainable Mekong Research Network.
by Ronnie Vernooy
Genebanks appear to be at a crossroads. Thanks to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), the scene has been set for an unprecedented level of global co-operation for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. In practice, however, the situation is largely static and many actors are unwilling to assume more proactive roles.
The survey on genebank managers, Availability of plant genetic resources in times of climate and policy change, revealed that a number of priorities have been identified that linked to recent climate change. Most notably, there is increasing interest in collecting and characterizing the wild relatives of some crops, in the hope of finding useful traits of particular interest, such as tolerance to extreme heat or cold. Despite their desire to collect and characterize wild relatives, CGIAR genebank managers also report that it is becoming more difficult for most of them to access new germplasm, with the exception of materials from well-established genebanks in Europe and North America. Read more »
By Caity Peterson
Recent research coming out of Central Asia tells a woefully familiar story: when it comes to climate change impacts, it’s the little guys who take the hardest knocks.
Farmers in Central Asia and the Caucasus face some of the direst predictions for climate change of anywhere else in the world. Temperatures in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are expected to rise by 3.7°C, well above the global average of 2.8°C. At high elevations this increase could be extreme, resulting in glacier reduction, increased evaporation, and a sudden scarcity of watering points in the surrounding rangelands. Regional precipitation will decrease by 3% and shift to the non-growing season, crop yield could decline by 5-30% by 2050, and grasslands may lose up to 30% productivity. More than half of all irrigated croplands in the region are already affected by high salinity, or water logging, or both. If it was dry here before, it’s about to get a lot drier.1
Number-blasting of this kind is commonplace in the climate science world, but rarely have such statistics been associated with a concrete price tag. How much will these changes actually cost farmers? To what extent will rural incomes be affected by climate change impacts on crop performance? Researchers at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, ICARDA, have found that impact on farmer income is mediated by a number of factors. Nevertheless, socioeconomic status and agro-ecological indicators may play a big role in determining whether or not the ball will be played in a farmer’s favor.
Bit by bit, East African smallholder farmers are adapting to climate change, according to a study we recently published in the journal Food Security. The story received significant attention from a number of global and African media outlets, highlighting both the positive aspects (farmers are adapting) and pointing to the ongoing challenges (they are not adapting quickly enough and not using well-tested approaches). Here are some of the highlights.
Reuters said that African farmers must do more to beat climate change, a story that was picked by worldwide media including the Huffington Post, the Jerusalem Post, Reuters AlertNet, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), and Scientific American.
Voice of America wrote how East African Farmers Plant Seeds of Innovation. In an interview, Patti Kristjanson, who led the research, described how East African farmers are aware of the extremes of climate change, but the driving factor behind their innovations is to ensure there’s enough to eat.
The New York Times featured the study in its Dot Earth blog. Andrew Revkin wrote that that the study’s conclusions show “there’s enormous potential to boost human resilience to climate extremes — whether the result of building greenhouse gases or nature’s built-in shocks — in places that are in harm’s way.” Read more »
by Caitlin Corner-Dolloff
Climate change will cause agricultural and livelihood challenges across the globe. With farmers in many areas already experiencing the effects of unpredictable weather and drought, action is needed immediately. In the light of this alarming issue, leaders from around the globe recently gathered in Vietnam, Hanoi at the Second Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (also called “Hunger for Action”) to discuss solutions. Representatives from over 150 countries joined the conference, together with Heads of State, Minsters, and and various international and regional organizations, civil society, and the public sector. In total the conference attracted almost 500 participants, all eager to join in and help create a food secure future.
The conference, which was co-organized by Viet Nam and the Netherlands, in close collaboration with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), among others, emphasized the increasing challenges to achieving global food security. Read more »
by Lini Wollenberg
Smallholder farmers in developing countries can contribute significantly to climate change mitigation. However, to have any meaningful impact on emissions, thousands if not millions of farmers will need to change their practices. For that to happen interventions will need to be scaled up and a wider range of incentives put into place. While selling carbon credits will work for some farmers, wider mitigation impacts are likely if climate finance and other sources of funds can be channeled through existing financial and technical services to directly support farmers’ needs. How can governments and others give farmers the incentives and support they need to transition to low emission agriculture in ways that are aligned with farmer’s livelihood and food security priorities? Read more »
CCAFS Coordinating Unit - University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rolighedsvej 21, DK-1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark, phone +45 35331046; Email ccafs [at] cgiar [dot] org, EAN 5790000279012
Lead Center - International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)