New Development Fund to Address Food Security, Climate Change

22 November 2010

A new research initiative funded by several global development agencies will attempt to tackle threats to agriculture and food security resulting from climate change. The US$200 million project, known as the Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), will explore new ways of helping vulnerable rural communities adjust to global changes in climate. The 10 year project will also attempt to help the agriculture sector in vulnerable countries reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and combat future food productivity and security challenges that are expected to arise due to climate change.

The research initiative – operated under the auspices of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP) – seeks to simultaneously address development and climate change. As such, the CCAFS aims to address agricultural challenges and reduce poverty by 10 percent by 2020 in targeted “hot spot” regions in Africa and India. The initiative has also set a target of reducing malnutrition in these so-called hot spot areas by 25 percent while simultaneously helping farmers in developing countries contribute to climate change mitigation by either enhancing storage or reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next 10 years.

“This new collaborative program represents a bold and innovative response to the challenge of adapting agriculture to climate change and variability while realising the opportunities open to farmers for mitigating global warming,” said Inger Andersen, CGIAR Fund Chair and Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank. “It goes far beyond current activities, marking a new phase in our efforts to cope with climate change in agriculture through cutting-edge collaborative science.”

The collaborative CGIAR-ESSP project is being funded by countries including Canada, Denmark, the US and also the World Bank and will be coordinated by Colombia-based International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

Ground work to begin in 2011

Researchers associated with the project estimate that climate change will reduce global potential to produce food by 5-10 percent by 2050. Higher temperatures and more variable rainfall will produce agricultural winners and losers, they say. As a result, northern hemisphere countries will be less likely to experience food shortages, which will result in a greater inequity in food production.

Much of the work on the ground will begin in 2011 with an initial focus on East and West Africa and the agricultural regions of South Asia known as the Indo-Gangetic Plain. CCAFS partners will identify and test climate change adaptation and mitigation practices, technologies, and policies that are suitable for poor, smallholder farmers and other stakeholders affected by climate change.

They will also identify "hot spots" where intervention is urgent and conduct vulnerability assessments. In addition, they will refine models that predict the impacts of a changing climate on agriculture and livelihoods, and identify ways to select crop varieties and livestock breeds with essential traits and novel farming and food systems suitable for future climate conditions.

Partners will further help farmers cope with changes in plant, pest, and disease pressures, which are particularly likely in areas where temperatures are rising, and—in collaboration with other critical actors in the food system—they will conduct research on adaptation and mitigation policies that can enhance food security.

Addressing climate change crucial to food security

Climate change is expected to impact development dramatically as agriculture is affected by higher temperatures, increased flooding, and other environmental instabilities. Ironically, agriculture – through the release of methane from livestock and nitrous oxide from organic and mineral nitrogen fertilizers – contributes to an estimated 20-30 percent of worldwide GHG emissions.

Thus, the farming sector is facing a difficult dilemma: how to produce more food for a growing worldwide population while reducing its greenhouse gas emissions? The global population is projected to hit 9 billion by 2050 – 90 percent of these are expected to be living in the developing world. Researchers say that the negative consequences of climate change on food production poses challenges for meeting the future global food requirements.
CCAFS researchers say the challenge is daunting, but emphasise that there is massive potential to cost-effectively mitigate GHGs through changes in agricultural technologies and management practices. Examples of this include, altering crop mixes to include more perennial plants, altering crop genetics, and managing fertilizer use to reduce both nitrous oxide and methane emissions.

“Climate change threatens to alter growing conditions so rapidly and dramatically as to require an intensive effort that draws on the combined talents of all of our centers and partners,” said Bruce Campbell, director of CCAFS. “We want to bring a sense of urgency to finding and implementing solutions and attracting more support for this effort."

The CCAFS initiative will be formally launched on 4 December on Agriculture and Rural Development Day at the UN climate summit in Cancun.

ICTSD Reporting, “World farming to get $200 million in climate aid,” REUTERS, 17 November 2010.

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