'Food Security in a Changing Climate' message reaches Canada

How can we get priority to agriculture back on the agenda? This and other issues were discussed in the recent CCAFS seminar 'Food Security in a Changing Climate'. Photo: P. Casier

A guest blog from CCAFS Theme Leader Patti Kristjanson, managing theme 'Linking Knowledge with Action'

A stimulating seminar on ‘Food Security in a Changing Climate’ was held on August 30 in Ottawa, Canada, jointly sponsored by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), International Development Research Council (IDRC), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. With around 50 participants from a wide range of institutions and backgrounds, the discussion was wide-ranging and lively!

Director of CCAFS Dr. Bruce Campbell set the scene with a presentation entitled ‘The Agricultural Trilemma: Feeding nine billion people while reducing the agricultural footprint’. Bruce outlined the three major challenges mankind is now facing: food security, adaptation to a changing climate and reducing agriculture’s footprint.






I, Patti Kristjanson, followed by presenting some of the evidence the CCAFS team has been gathering in baseline surveys covering over 5,000 farming households across a wide range of sites in West Africa, East Africa and South Asia regarding farming household food security, gender issues, and adaptation strategies, among other things. CCAFS is prioritizing gender research and capacity building investments which was also brought forward in the presentation.

President of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture Ron Bonnet then talked about climate change and food security issues from a farmers perspective, mentioning, for example, the fact that an increasingly volatile climate is perhaps much more of a concern than is the fact that average temperatures are rising.

Alexandra Conliffe from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada described the approach being taken by the Global Research Alliance for Agricultural Greenhouse Gases  and the challenges in getting agriculture on the agenda for COP17.

Director of IDRC Jean Lebel then set the scene for the following question and discussion section, and included a summary of key lessons learned over the last 5 years from a large, multi-year and institute climate change adaptation and (CCAA) program, supported by Canada and Britain.

Some of the issues raised in the discussion that followed included:

  • Prioritization of scarce resources - how to decide between funding investments in biophysical research (e.g. new technologies such as drought resistant crop varieties) versus investments in social interventions (e.g. looking at institutions, markets, socio-economic and cultural factors affecting adaptation and mitigation behavior);
  • Food security involves much more than just enhanced production and productivity, including issues of accessibility, utilization and stability – how are these issues being brought into the research? Fisheries, a key livelihood source for many, are not being talked about enough either;
  • The agricultural sector has been severely ‘under-invested’ for many years, particularly in Africa, coupled with an institutional neglect of agriculture in many countries – in the face of this, how can it get back on the agenda?;
  • There are huge differences between market/commercial-oriented producers versus more self-sufficiency-oriented households; how best to deal with this dichotomy?;
  • Questions over the assertion that GHG emissions are largely signs of inefficiencies; what about issue of carbon sinks? Farmers all over are starting to understand that carbon has a value - both a challenge and an opportunity!;
  • The role of the private sector was raised – how best to engage them. ‘Just Ask’ was a memorable response from one of the participants! What are the incentives for private sector to invest in public sector research? The role of PPP’s, e.g. IDRC’s work with Syngenta Foundation was highlighted as an important gap starting to be addressed;
  • The key role of trade and trade-related issues, and the importance of Canada understanding the need to encourage domestic production, but also free trade and avoidance of ‘dumping’ (which has serious effects on local production incentives) was also discussed;
  • A suggestion for a renewed focus on extension was made;
  • An ‘efficiency lens’ argument was made – i.e. farmers care when they hear they are wasting purchased inputs (in the developed world); in the developing world, where in many places the use of purchased inputs is still minimal, the livelihoods/co-benefit lens may be more appropriate – i.e. farmers care about the multiple benefits (e.g. diversified income sources) from mitigative actions.

The great questions and positive feedback to the direction CCAFS is heading, from such a distinguished and diverse group was very encouraging, and we truly appreciate the support that CCAFS has received from the Canadian government.

View more presentations from researchers at CCAFS at