A new United Nations report evaluating the science of climate change urges financial support to help small-scale farmers adapt to changing weather patterns
When Robert Phiri, a small-scale farmer from Zambia, looks out on his maize field, he can’t help but worry.
In the last several years, the changing climate means drought has affected his fields, and growing enough food to feed his family has become more difficult.
“Our rainy season has gone from eight months to only four,” he says. “It used to last from October to May.”
Phiri’s story is repeated by many of the farmers who receive assistance through programs supported by Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
They tell of changing seasons, increasing floods and more severe droughts. They also speak of the critical need for support in adapting to these changes.
His concern is echoed by a major new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body tasked with assessing the vast body of science on climate change.
The report, released Mar. 31, 2014, drives home the very real concern that climate change is already increasing hunger, and will do so increasingly in the future.
“Throughout the 21st century, climate change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps,” reads the report.
The report predicts that in the near future, extreme climatic events such as heat waves, droughts, floods and wildfires will disproportionately affect the world’s poorest people—many of whom are small-scale farmers and the ones least able to cope with the disastrous consequences.
The report speaks to the urgent need for adaptation, showing that adaptation actions can go some distance to alleviate these threats.
Foodgrains Bank helping farmers reduce risk of crop failure
Much of Foodgrains Bank’s agricultural programming is already helping farmers adapt to warming temperatures and increasingly erratic weather.
This year, Phiri tried conservation agriculture—farming that involves minimal soil disturbance, the use of mulch and crop rotations—for the first time. This farming method, which was made possible through support from the Foodgrains Bank, has been proven to retain moisture in the soil, facilitate more timely planting with uncertain rains, and improve yields.
He is optimistic that this new farming method will reduce the risk of crop failure.
But more funding for adaptation from governments on a large scale is necessary to meet the vast adaptation needs for people like Phiri.
For this reason, “the Foodgrains Bank and supporters have been urging the Canadian government to support small-scale farmers adapt to climate change,” says Foodgrains Bank executive director Jim Cornelius. “The IPCC report heightens the importance of putting in place a major global adaptation financing plan and program.”
The IPCC report also makes it clear that adaptation must be accompanied by concrete steps to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change in the first place. Adaptation alone will not solve the problem.
“The challenge is helping people adapt as quickly as possible, while still making the major changes necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” says Cornelius.
—Amanda Thorsteinsson, Communications Officer
Canadian Foodgrains Bank is a partnership of 15 church and church agencies working together to end global hunger. In 2102-13 the Foodgrains Bank was able to provide $43 million of assistance for 2.1 million people in 37 countries. This included over 40,000 tonnes of food and seed. Foodgrains Bank programs are undertaken with the support of the Canadian government. For more information, visit www.foodgrainsbank.ca