Saturday, 17 November 2012


The reports published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation;
the World Food Programme;
the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research [November];
Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security [October];
Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change [March];
during 2012 were concerned to identify that Climate Change will result in significant changes in the distribution of poverty and hunger,
the organization of World Trade,
the social and economic priorities of governments,
the development of social protection of the poor,
the types of food that can be grown and the emergence of sustainable diets,
cultural changes associated with food: vegetarian/vegan/omnivores. 
They wished to emphasise that climate changes over the next 40 years will not only lead to different weather, rain, heat, winds, drought, storms but also to economic, social, political, cultural  changes.

However, it is clear that the UN and Agriculture agencies support the current systems of trade and growth, and ignore the impacts of economic inequality. They identify the roles of small holders in growing local foods for local communities without paying any attention to the realities of  the economic power of the 1%.........their control of  funding and investment. If local farmers are to be able to respond to the failure of crops, it is necessary for them to have direct access to finances that will allow them to innovate and develop new crops and new methods.

Inequality, Poverty, Hunger, Injustice
At a time when more food is grown in a year than at any other time, 1 billion people are undernourished - go hungry, and 1 billion suffer obesity -the effects of over-eating!

In 2012, out of a world population of 7 billion, 10 million are multi-millionaires with access to $42 trillion, of which 1225 are billionaires with $4.2 trillion: the so-called 1%!  The unregulated global banking services operate derivative/ futures markets creating $800 trillion, along with a credit default swaps market creating $600 trillion.  The Gross Domestic Product of global trading is estimated  by the Bank of England at $500 trillion. Clearly, we live in a world where there is more money than ever before. But most of it is controlled by  a small minority. Unless this wealth is released for agriculture, it is unlikely that the poor and hungry will survive.
Alongside this elite minority of plutocrats, there are 1.5 billion people who are trying to survive on less than $1.25 a day. There are up to 1 billion people who go hungry everyday.

 The reports published in 2012  by the FAO, WFP, IFAD, CGIAR, CCAFS declared that 868 million people suffer undernourishment.   30% of the world’s population suffer micronutrient deficiency. 2 billion people suffer the consequences of micro-nutrient deficiencies. 100 million children under 5 are underweight. 2.5 million children die every year due to malnutrition. 12.5% of the global population are undernourished. There are more hungry people in Sub Saharan Africa, western Asia, and North Africa now than in 1992. The number of overweight children has reduced, and the stunting of children under 5 has decreased.
We live in a global society in which the majority  are poor.
The extent of deprivation is appalling, given the luxury of the few!   
Many of their problems could be eliminated if the elite plutocracy shared their wealth in cooperation with the poor majority! If the cycle of poverty is to be broken, political action is required to redistribute wealth, and develop social welfare programmes.

World Trade
Most of the world’s poor depend on farming. Therefore, agricultural growth could reduce poverty. But the reports reveal that agricultural situations are very complicated.
The farmers are not necessarily the owners of the land. One of the impacts of globalization has been that many  crops and land are controlled by sovereign funds [that is, national governments] and banking investment funds. World Trade influences what is grown, harvested, and sold. For example, China controls many acres in Ethiopia. The crops are stored for use in China, not sold for food in Ethiopia.  The UK and the EU sponsor farmers in Kenya to grow flowers for export on some of the most fertile lands in the country. Crops are not always grown to feed local communities. Too many crops are grown as products of world trade.
Across the world, commodity corporations like Glenstrata, Unilever, Walmart and other supermarket corporations, support the growth of such crops as wheat, maize, rice, potatoes, bananas, oranges, apples, satsumas, tea, coffee, lemons, pineapples, palm oil, olive oil, sugar, nuts, and so on,  for sale across the world. They keep prices of food low in the field, and protect their profits by manipulating the prices in the shops.
In the face of a world population rising to 9 billion, the global demand for food is expected to increase by 60% by 2050. [It is worth noting that no report explores the possibility that the undernourished and hungry will die, and the world population will decline or be static].
At the moment, agriculture is regarded as a good investment by many corporations, countries, and investment funds not for the food but for the profits. It is these agricultural investors who manipulate supplies and demands, and prices, making food supplies more insecure. It is important to realize that not only climate change  imperils food security, it is traders and investors, who alter food prices at a time of maximum production? who decide that bio-energy crops are more profitable than food crops, without any regard for the needs of the vulnerable and hungry and deprived -the poor.

Social Priorities
Given that we live in a global society in which most of the wealth is controlled by an elite plutocracy, and the majority of people are poor, the social and economic priorities must change in the future. The  FAO insists that in order for economic growth to enhance the nutrition of the neediest, the poor must participate in the growth process and its benefits: (i) Growth needs to involve and reach the poor - small holders should share the profits of their labour, and not be subject to capitalist exploitation.
(ii) the poor need to use the additional income for improving the quantity and quality of their diets and for improved health services; and
(iii) governments need to use additional public resources for public goods and services to benefit the poor and hungry. Agricultural growth involving smallholders, especially women, will be most effective in reducing extreme poverty and hunger when it increases income to farmers and generates employment for the poor.
 In those countries where most people are dependent on agriculture, small holders play a key role in meeting food demands.  The FAO asserts that small holders are more efficient than large scale monocultures; more sustainable, and promote a green economy. The FAO argues that in the future, so as to respond positively to the predicted rising demands for food small holders will need
access to credit so as to be able to invest in new crops and land;
to gain access to transport;  and storage  with  refrigeration,   so that they can look after the harvests and reduce waste;  
to secure land tenure,  and establish their property rights so that they can withstand land grabs by corporations and governments;
constant access to education, in particular literacy and numeracy,  so that they can understand new laws and policies and practices.  

Social Protection
Social protection is crucial for accelerating hunger reduction. First, it can protect the most vulnerable who have not benefited from economic growth. Second, social protection, properly structured, can contribute directly to more rapid economic growth through human resource development and strengthened ability of the poor, especially smallholders, to manage risks and adopt improved technologies with higher productivity.
Economic and agricultural growth should be “nutrition-sensitive”. Growth needs to result in better nutritional outcomes through enhanced opportunities for the poor to diversify their diets; improved access to safe drinking water and sanitation; improved access to health services; better consumer awareness regarding adequate nutrition and child care practices; and targeted distribution of supplements in situations of acute micronutrient deficiencies. Good nutrition, in turn, is key to sustainable economic growth.
To accelerate hunger reduction, economic growth needs to be accompanied by purposeful and decisive public action. Public policies and programmes must create a conducive environment for pro-poor long-term economic growth. Key elements of enabling environments include provision of public goods and services for the development of the productive sectors, equitable access to resources by the poor, empowerment of women, and design and implementation of social protection systems. An improved governance system, based on transparency, participation, accountability, rule of law and human rights, is essential for the effectiveness of such policies and programmes. Of course, the problem is that in many countries of the world these programmes are not being developed, and government elites are taking all grant-aid monies for their own benefits, and their families. The recent revolts in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria have revealed that the ruling families have taken all the money to sponsor their lives of absolute luxury! in the midst of total poverty.
The United Nations must work to educate citizens and their rulers as to the needs for hunger reduction, for social protection, for the empowerment of women, for human rights, and rule of law.

Diet Changes
Climate patterns will lead to direct changes to crop survival. Droughts and floods will cause crop failure immediately. 2012 has seen the failure of the maize crops in the USA. The FAO and its agencies are exploring the implications of climate change for food crops that provide the staples of regional and local diets. The three main sources of our calories, maize, rice and wheat, face  extreme weather events that could significantly depress yields. Key sources of animal protein, including cattle, goats, sheep, and fish likewise may be imperiled.
According to the FAO, more than half of the calories consumed globally come from the three crops: but maize, wheat and rice production will be severely challenged by climate change. In some places, it may be possible to overcome the challenges by breeding more resilient varieties, such as those that can withstand high heat, drought or flooding. But  climate change may threaten the livelihoods of nearly one billion people living on less than two dollars per day who keep livestock. Already, they do not eat enough food to meet their energy requirements. This problem will rapidly intensify as an additional two billion people populate the planet during the next 40 years. The dramatic increases in food production that are needed must take account of the impact of climate change on farming regions and crop varieties.
So what is going to happen when it is no longer possible to grow wheat, rice, and maize? How many people will die?
One of the crops that can be used to fill this calorie gap is cassava, which is both a cash crop and a food staple in Africa and Asia. More importantly, cassava tolerates numerous stresses, ranging from infertile soils to heat and drought. Certainly, cassava could help to meet food needs in South Asia, where higher temperatures and prolonged dry periods will reduce the viability of wheat and rice.
Bananas are another crop that could fill regional agricultural gaps. Plantains and cooking bananas provide some 70 million Africans with more than a quarter of their calorie requirements. They are currently grown in the humid and sub-humid tropics, the tropical highlands and drier subtropics. Climate change may affect banana cultivation in certain areas, but its range is expected to adjust, not shrink. In the near future, it may be possible
to cultivate bananas at higher altitudes with a shorter time between planting and harvesting (although bunch size may decrease).

The important point is that agriculture has to adapt beyond maintaining the viability of wheat, maize and rice in the face of climate change and finding replacement crops. And given the thicket of technical, environmental, cultural and political issues involved in shifting dietary staples, this adaptation work needs to rapidly accelerate to keep pace with climate change. Adaptation will have to take place all the time over the next 40 years in response to climate changes and population growth

One of the more common sources of vegetable protein is the soybean. While widely grown in the United States, Brazil and China, soybean is a relatively new crop in sub-Saharan Africa. But it has been adopted with some success in the savannah regions. Some African cultures are already adding the soybean, high in protein and vegetable oil, to their traditional recipes. Soybeans, however, are extremely susceptible to increased temperatures. The areas in the US and Brazil that cultivate proteins for export would face steep declines once the temperature exceeds 30°C. There are estimates that US soybean production alone could decrease by as much as 80 percent in this century.
Chickpeas, another traditional source of vegetable protein, are grown and eaten across
five continents, including regions where hunger is a constant concern. The chickpea may be vulnerable to climate shifts, in part because it is usually grown on marginal lands and with minimal amounts of fertilizer and irrigation. In these settings, the crop is already vulnerable to attacks from pests and environmental stresses.
Climate change is likely to have a mixed effect on chickpeas. The anticipated increase in carbon dioxide levels could be beneficial, but higher temperatures will hinder their growth.
Cowpea, known in sub-Saharan Africa as a “poor man’s meat,” is an essential part of the
diet in many regions. Not only does it have ample protein, but several varieties contain
an exceptional amount of micronutrients. The crop is grown mostly in the dry savannahs and is generally more drought-tolerant than other plants. Cowpea vines play a valuable role in providing dry-season feed for ruminant livestock.
Barley is one cereal, though, that could help improve nutrition, especially in drier parts of the world. It contains high levels of micronutrients—especially zinc and iron—and can be used as livestock feed. Barley also can fetch a relatively high price in markets as the grain is valued in producing alcoholic beverages. Barley could be attractive in a world of rising seas and more frequent droughts, as it is known for its ability to withstand salinity in the soil, in addition to heat and drought. There needs to be more research to determine just how much stress barley can sustain, but its ability to adapt to climate change appears to surpass many of today’s most important crops.
Millet and lentils are highly nutritious foods that are similarly able to withstand harsher growing environments. They are ready-made to help poor communities maintain and increase food security as climate conditions reduce yields from other food sources. However, they are not a bullet-proof adaptation option since certain climate stresses can reduce their yields as well.

Cultural Change
The FAO and agencies accept that food and cooking and diets are important aspects of ways of living, and expressions of social cultures. For example, the Mediterranean diet with olive oil, yoghurt, oranges, apples, herbs, feta, garlic, fresh fish, tomatoes, wheat is seen as part and parcel of living in Greece, Italy, and Spain.  The adoption and use of new crops and different foods and cooking requires farming changes as well as different eating habits.
Crops, such as cassava, yam, barley, cowpea, millet and lentils  could fill in the gaps caused by declining harvests of other crop  types. A key source of tension, however, surrounds adaptation that would involve abandoning a traditional food source for an entirely different one: for example, forsaking maize in the face of rising temperatures and cultivating cowpea instead. Will people embrace the new staple, however nutritious it may be? This cultural challenge is another facet of climate change adaptation that should get as much attention as plant breeding.
Despite the enormous challenges climate change will bring to food production in the developing world, and in wealthy countries as well, a number of actions can be undertaken to prevent these problems from exploding into costly crises. In its final report, issued in March 2012, the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change issued a number of recommendations that that can help ensure agriculture not only survives but also thrives.
These include:
Financing initiatives to help agricultural production systems become more resilient to weather variability and shocks, while contributing significantly to mitigating climate change. This includes supporting national climate risk assessments and developing mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Reshaping food access and consumption patterns to ensure basic nutritional needs are met and to foster healthy and sustainable eating patterns worldwide, and then promoting these changes through innovative education and outreach campaigns.

Significantly raising the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems in the next decade. This includes increasing the knowledge of best practices and innovation by supporting revitalized extension services, technology transfers and communities of practice.

Developing specific programs and policies to assist populations and sectors that are most vulnerable to climate changes and food insecurity. This includes creating and supporting safety nets and other programs to help vulnerable populations in all countries become food secure.

Establishing robust emergency food reserves and a financing capacity that can deliver rapid humanitarian responses to vulnerable populations threatened by food crises.

These recommendations focus our attention on the necessity for making finance available; promoting sustainable diets; sustainable agriculture; support for vulnerable populations; and food reserves. 

Recalibrating Food Production in the Developing World, Policy Brief 6

Achieving Food Security: final report by the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change/ CGIAR 2012.

Climate Change and Food Systems: Annual Review Environmental Resources.
Vermeulen, Campbell, Ingram 2012

State of Food Insecurity in the World FAO/ WFP/ IFAD.  2012

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