Placing a value on climate risks for smallholder farmers #cop19

By Edward Grainger-Jones, Director of Environment and Climate Division at IFAD

Smallholder farmers are largely voiceless in the national and global debates happening this year around development policy-making - from climate change to the post-2015 agenda, the year the Millennium Development Goals expire.

Yet rural women and men are central to the twin challenges of climate change and food insecurity. While they make up the largest share of the hungry in developing countries, they also feed 2 billion people.

The world’s 500 million smallholder farms are on the frontline of climate change - directly relying on nature for their livelihoods and inhabiting some of the most vulnerable and marginal landscapes, such as hillsides, deserts and floodplains. In sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia, rural families farm about 80 percent of agricultural land.

So while we know that climate change is creating major risks for smallholder farming, the real question is how to make their voices loud enough to push policy and decision-makers to act.

Decent numbers a start

A huge opportunity runs right across all spheres of developed and developing economies: recognising systemic risks and the benefits of managing them. It’s so big that many don’t even see it, until things like the 2008 financial crisis happen.

The experience of IFAD is that numbers rather than anecdotes grab the attention of policymakers and investors. This is why a central goal of IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) - is to get better data on why and how smallholder farms are where increased investment of public spending - and in particular climate finance - should be channeled.

Putting numbers on the many direct and indirect benefits of investing climate funding in smallholder climate adaptation gives hard evidence of the potential power of farming families in developing countries.

In addition, it allows us to better measure the impact of increased investment and improved policies on food security, economic growth, rural-urban migration, the speed of land degradation, malnutrition, conflict and biodiversity conservation.

Report shows benefits

IFAD released a new report as an initial contribution to putting a value on all this: The Adaptation Advantage: The Economic Benefits of Preparing Small-Scale Farmers for Climate Change.

The report explores case studies such as in Bangladesh, where the introduction of flood prevention methods in villages in the Haor Basin is expected to protect homes and infrastructure from an estimated $2,000 in damages per community each year.

In Turkey, IFAD has worked with smallholders in the Murat River Watershed zone, where the introduction of slope stabilisation methods helps communities escape the brunt of floods and landslides. This produces a cost-saving in the range of $19.6 million for the area covered by the project.

Better numbers are essential ammunition in the complex political economy of smallholder development and climate change.

Our hope is that putting a value on both the impacts of climate change for smallholder farmers and the benefits of minimising these will at least nudge the global climate and post-2015 development debates – together with the resulting climate and other finance - in their direction.

On November 13 13:00-14:00 GMT (14:00-15:00 CET/08:00-09:00 EST), IFAD and Thomson Reuters Foundation will host a live debate to explore the economic benefits of climate change adaptation projects on the ground, as well as how UN climate talks can deliver results for small farmers (#adaptingpays).

Originally posted on Thomson Reuters Foundation website