According to research released by the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development, staple crops in eight African countries might decline by as much as 80% by 2050 in some regions if temperatures continue to rise owing to climate change (IFAD).

Unless there is an immediate injection of cash to help vulnerable farmers modify how and what they grow, this could have a catastrophic impact on poverty and food availability.

COP26, according to the organization, will fail to have a long-term impact if world leaders continue to prioritize mitigation while ignoring investments in climate adaptation.

What Can Smallholder Farmers Grow in a Warmer World? was published in the report What Can Smallholder Farmers Grow in a Warmer World? Climate Change and Future.

Crop Suitability in East and Southern Africa shows that if no changes are made to agricultural practices or global policies, erratic weather patterns, drier conditions, and a 2°C increase in temperature will have a devastating impact on staple and cash crop yields grown by small-scale farmers in parts of Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The attention will be on the unfulfilled commitment made six years ago by wealthier countries to generate $100 billion per year in climate finance for less developed countries by 2020 at next week’s UN climate change conference (COP26) in Glasgow.

Even if this goal were met, it would not be enough. By 2030, annual adaptation expenditures in underdeveloped nations are anticipated to be between $140 and $300 billion. Currently, most climate financing flows are aimed at reducing global warming. Only $1 is spent on adaptation for every $18 spent on mitigation.

“Mitigation and adaptation are like the two wings of a bird, we cannot continue flying on one wing,” said Dr. Jyotsna Puri, IFAD’s Associate Vice President of the Strategy and Knowledge Department, which produced the report. “While efforts in mitigation are essential, they will take two or three decades to bear fruit. We must urgently invest in adaptation now so that small-scale farmers, like the ones in this study, can continue to grow the crops they rely on for their incomes and to feed their nations.”

While no country is immune to the impacts of climate change, small-scale farmers in developing countries are the most vulnerable and the least able to cope. They produce a third of the world’s food and up to 80 percent in some areas of Africa and Asia but receive less than 2 percent of the funds invested globally in climate finance.

Insufficient funding for adaptation will have ripple effects across the world. Falling crop yields are expected to lead to higher food prices, a decrease in food availability, and a rise in hunger and poverty. This could trigger increased migration, conflict, and instability. Globally, one in ten people were living with hunger in 2020, with the figure increasing in Africa to one out of five people.

According to the report’s findings, the impact of climate change will inevitably force fundamental changes to local crop choices and agricultural practices by 2050 in these countries. Recommended investments in adaptation include:

Planting alternative crops and crop diversification, for example reducing reliance on maize in favour of beans, other legumes, or grains.

Planting different varieties, including locally adapted varieties.

Using different planting techniques, with improved seeds and plant material.

Strengthening storage and processing capacities and infrastructure, and climate-proofing value chains.

Improving access to and management of irrigation.

“COP26 is a turning point for humanity,” said Puri. “We must not squander this opportunity to limit the rise in temperatures while at the same time supporting farmers to become resilient to the effects of climate change. The very survival of rural farming communities depends on their ability to adapt.”

IFAD is the only multilateral development organization focused on eradicating hunger and poverty in rural areas and has committed to dedicating half of its climate finance budget to adaptation. Earlier this year, it launched ASAP+, a climate financing mechanism envisioned to be the largest fund dedicated to channeling climate finance to small-scale producers to help them adapt to climate change and combat hunger and malnutrition.

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