On day two of the UNFCCC Warsaw COP19, the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) held a working group to discuss issues related to agriculture. Presentations from the IPCC and FAO explained the impacts of climate change on agricultural production in all regions of the world.
It was noted that heat extremes, droughts and declining precipitation trends are likely to hit small farmers especially hard, since they depend on rain-fed agriculture and pastoral systems for their survival.
This means that climate change will place the most stress on those with the least capacity to adapt, thereby exploiting inequalities within developing countries.
Alexandre Meybeck of FAO raised the demographic dilemma: food production must increase by an estimated 60 per cent by 2050 to meet demand from a growing population, while climate change is imperilling farming systems everywhere.
The working group discussed practices for more efficient resource use in agriculture, making it possible to grow food even in conditions of scarcity. Agroforestry methods are being used across landscapes to supply firewood, maintain fertile soils and improve local climate conditions. It is a relevant approach at the local level, and contributes to global efforts to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases.
These types of measures are so important because climate models clearly tell us that the choices we make now matter for the type of world we will have by the end of this century.
Country delegates also took to the panel to share their experiences adapting to climates in transition. These came from countries in different regions facing disparate climate risks. In the Gambia they are using early warning systems to alert farmers to sudden floods and droughts, while in Bangladesh new strains of saline resistant crops are being cultivated to contend with sea level rise.
It’s clear that developing countries require new resources to implement the practices that will support resilient and sustainable farming. Research and development, rural extension and capacity building are all areas in need of finance to serve small farmers better.