Climate Change Is Threatening Food Security and Nutrition Around the Globe - but Some Solutions Are Making an Impact

Investing in climate change adaptation is imperative to ensure food security in vulnerable communities.


1.5 billion people worldwide live in smallholder households, which account for 80 percent of food production in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Most of these smallholder farmers are in developing countries, and 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in these countries is made up of women. Smallholder farmers are dependent on agricultural production for both subsistence and income generation.

In many cases, they rely on rainfall to irrigate their crops, with limited access to reliable water sources such as wells, pumps or irrigation systems. They do not have insurance to cover failed crops, or money to buy advanced fertilizers or nutrients to improve the health of their soil. Most importantly, they often do not have the knowledge and information to prepare for unpredictable climate changes, which increasingly threaten these households and their crop yields, as well as their food security and well-being.

Food production is directly impacted by climate change. Changing temperatures, unpredictable rainfall patterns, shorter and more erratic growing seasons, and an increased frequency of extreme events like droughts and floods all directly affect productivity of traditional crops, livestock and fisheries.

Food security is not just about production. It is as much about the quality and diversity of food available, how it can be accessed by different sections of the society, its nutritional value, and the consistency with which nutritious food is available and accessible on a long-term basis.

A drop in productivity caused by erratic weather events means that there is less food available. This in turn impacts the accessibility of food, especially for the vulnerable sections of the population who are affected by the resulting increase in prices of food and reduced income due to lower crop yields.

Similarly, climate change threatens other resources such as water, for irrigation and for domestic purposes, which directly affects the nutritional quality of food.

Finally, increasingly unpredictable weather events and the repercussions of extreme events take a toll on the regular and consistent availability of nutritious food, especially for vulnerable households. All of these factors contribute to undermining global food security, particularly in developing countries. The global community has committed to Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger.

To reach this goal, we must consider climate-related impacts to each of the above mentioned aspects of food security, and continue to design and implement resilient solutions, at scale.

How the Canada-UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Facility Is Addressing Food Security

Several countries around the world are already addressing the challenges climate change poses to food security. The Canada-UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Facility (CCAF) projects in Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Haiti, Mali, Niger and Sudan serve as exemplars of some of these climate-resilient solutions.

While each country’s experiences and adaptation approaches were unique to their local context, all the CCAF projects had a similar focus on enhancing food security, as well as generating additional income and diversifying livelihood options. Positive results have already been seen across all six countries.

In Niger, increased yields from crop production reduced the number of food-insecure days, and alleviated the need to earn additional income to purchase food.

In Cambodia, newly established solar water pumps and water user groups helped to establish small home-based vegetable gardens typically managed by women. These allowed them to produce a wider variety of crops for families to eat, which helped improve nutrition.

Similarly, in Mali the project assisted women’s collectives to establish cooperative vegetable gardens, including securing access to water, tools and land, thereby diversifying participants’ food and livelihoods.

In Cabo Verde, the national research institution tested new varieties of crops that are more resilient to the expected drier conditions, and piloted them with local farmers. In Sudan, integrated pest management techniques have been introduced to address an increasing incidence of certain pests due to climatic changes.

In Haiti, farmers are developing and implementing individualized farming plans, based on specific family needs, vulnerabilities and opportunities, to achieve sustainable subsistence food production and income generation.

This cookbook represents the fruits of these efforts, restoring food to its position as a celebration of life, local culture and the environment. The cookbook also acknowledges that there is much to learn from communities that are at the front lines of climate change.

These vulnerable households are being forced to adapt within their economic and environmental constraints, yet their innovative and successful strategies can serve as a model and inspiration for others around the world.

More information on the CCAF and specific products generated from the activities implemented in the six countries is available at the CCAF website here: adaptation-undp.org/projects/ccaf.

Bon appétit!

Recipe: Dambou — Niger

Ingredients

  • 1 kg (35 oz) of semolina millet, sorghum, corn or couscous
  • 500 g (17 oz) Moringa leaves (or cabbage or spinach)
  • 2 onions
  • ½ litre (17 fl oz) groundnut or peanut oil
  • 4 fresh tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Fresh chilli
  • Dry chilli
  • Salt

Directions

  • Boil the moringa leaves (in case moringa leaves are not available, cabbage or spinach can be substituted) for 3-4 minutes and drain well.
  • Mix with salt and pepper.
  • Dice the tomatoes, onion and garlic.
  • Fry the onion in groundnut oil until translucent and then add the fresh tomato and garlic. Incorporate this into the moringa mixture.
  • Add the dry and fresh chillies.
  • Cook the millet with twice as much water in a medium-sized saucepan at medium-high heat.
  • When the water starts boiling, turn the heat down to low and cover the pot.
  • After 10-15 minutes all the water should be absorbed. The millet is ready to serve.
  • Serve the moringa mixture prepared earlier on a bed of millet. Some fresh chillies can be used as garnish.
  • Mix well and serve.

The starches eaten most often in Niger are millet and rice. Sorghum and maize are also very popular in many parts of the country. Couscous is saved for special occasions. Most of these grains are grown by smallholder farmers, who are typically dependent on one crop for their livelihoods. With the impacts of climate change, these crops become more vulnerable to increasing droughts, changing rainfall patterns and seasonal uncertainty.

Under the CCAF project, new varieties of millet and sorghum that are more resilient to these changing climate conditions have been introduced to target communities. Further, 70 farmers, including 21 women, were trained in how to propagate or produce these improved varieties, which they can then sell to other farmers for a small profit. 3,755 kg of seeds of eight varieties of millet, sorghum and cowpea adapted to climate conditions were produced by the trained farmers and subsequently distributed to 3,000 rural farmers (around 600 of whom are women).

Sustainable Development Goal 2 aims to end hunger, and achieve food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture

The Canada-UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Facility supports a portfolio of national climate change adaptation projects implemented in Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Haiti, Mali, Niger and Sudan. These projects were initially supported by the Global Environment Facility’s Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF). In 2014, these ongoing LDCF-funded adaptation projects in each country received additional funding from the Government of Canada and UNDP to further enhance the adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities, particularly in the context of food security and water management. The CCAF also includes a global component, which acts as an umbrella initiative aiming to document, analyze and share experiences and lessons learned across the six countries.

Watch a video about "Adaptive Farms, Resilient Tables":

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