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Farmers face new climate risks

29 November 2012, The Zimbabwean

IFAD said smallholder farmers will need to increase their general resilience to withstand shocks, such as extreme weather events, and stresses.

“These farmers must be supported to scale up multiple benefit approaches that reduce poverty, enhance biodiversity, increase yields and lower greenhouse gas emissions in order for them to boost resilience to climate change,” the global agricultural organisation said.

It said smallholders often lack the resources required to adapt to the rapidly changing climate. “For them to be saved, first there is need for project and policy preparation that must be based on better risk assessment. Depending on local circumstances, risk management tools must be tailored to smallholder farmers’ needs,” the organisation said.

It added that, historical averages can no longer be relied on since climate change is increasing variability, the range of extremes and the scale of volatility and risk.

IFAD is dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries. Seventy-five per cent of the world's poorest people 1,4 billion women, children and men live in rural areas and depend on agriculture and related activities for their livelihoods. Its mission is to enable poor rural people to overcome poverty.

Agriculture is set to be one of the issues to be discussed during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC), 18th Conference of Parties being held in Doha, Qatar.

Olu Ajayi, senior programme coordinator for agriculture and rural development policies at the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) said smallholder farmers must also be encouraged to adopt production practices that minimises the risks of the effects of climate change.

Ajayi said there are specific technologies, such as drought-resistant crops that can help in specific context. “This is an area where policies at different levels- local, national and international should be made conducive to facilitate the adoption of such technologies by farmers.”

There is need to obtain an inventory of key agricultural production technologies and practices that have been tested and proven to not only help farmers to produce food, but also contribute to mitigate or cope with climate change. The time has come to actively promote climate-smart agricultural techniques, he explained.

He says the other risk that faces farmers is that they have less control of their livelihood, “as extreme weather conditions can wipe out most of the production efforts and investments they made in their fields.”

“Household food security may become much more vulnerable. This is especially the case in many of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, where the prevalence of rainfed agriculture coupled with the absence or weak presence of agricultural insurance schemes raises the stakes of climate change for farm households. These are the regions that CTA concentrates its programmatic support,” Ajayi said.

He expects that COP18 must accord a higher priority to agriculture in the whole discussions on climate change and programmes developed in this regards. “The decisions and agreements in Doha should be followed up with actions in the field. This for me would constitute an acceptable outcome,” Ajayi added.

According to Michael Hailu, CTA Director, despite agriculture being one of the most severely impacted sectors by climate change and it contributes to global warming, it has been completely missing in previous UNFCCC discussions.

“We are hoping that there will be a specific work programme on agriculture to give it the attention it deserves and address issues of food security, adaptation and mitigation in a concrete manner.

“The issue of financing has been on the climate negotiation agenda for several years. It is a major concern for developing countries and it is important that climate finance is made available to support adaptation programmes for agriculture,” Hailu said.

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