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70 percent of the world's most vulnerable populations depend on fishing, farming, and livestock for food. (Photo: Oxfam International/flickr/cc)

Millions Face Hunger by 2030 Without 'Deep Transformation' of Agriculture: UN

An additional 122 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty and hunger as a result of climate change impacts on small-scale farmers

Nadia Prupis

A new report from the United Nations released Monday brought another dire warning of the catastrophic consequences of climate change—that without putting immediate environmental safeguards into place, more than a hundred million more people could be driven into extreme poverty and hunger by 2030.

The call comes as global leaders gathered in Rome for a food security summit. The report marks World Food Day 2016, which occurred on October 16th, and highlights the link between climate change and sustainable agriculture, with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon noting that 70 percent of the world's most vulnerable populations depend on fishing, farming, and livestock for food.

Up to 122 million more people around the globe could be forced into extreme poverty by 2030 as a result of climate change on small-scale food producers, the report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found.

Without "widespread adoption of sustainable land, water, fisheries and forestry practices, global poverty cannot be eradicated," it states, calling for "deep transformations in agriculture and food systems," such as greater support for the globe's half-billion small-scale farmers.

The report warns there is "no doubt that climate change will affect the agriculture sectors and food security and that its negative impact will become more severe as it accelerates. In some particularly vulnerable places, such as small islands or in areas affected by large-scale extreme weather and climate events, the impact could be catastrophic."

The Guardian reports on the study:

In a best-case scenario, slow-moving climate change would allow farming to adapt through relatively simple techniques, at least in the near future. But it warns that more abrupt changes would make adequate adaptation almost impossible.

Possible consequences include major declines in crop yields and increasingly high and volatile food prices, it says. "In the longer run, unless measures are put in place to halt and reverse climate change, food production could become impossible in large areas of the world."

The report cites diversifying crop production, better integration of farming with the natural habitat, agroecology, and "sustainable intensification" as strategies to help small-scale farmers adapt to a warming world.

The report notes that certain policies already in place—such as subsidies for fertilizers and pesticides—hinder the progress of more sustainable, organic farming. "Social protection programs will need to play an important role—in helping smallholders better manage risk, reducing vulnerability to food price volatility, and enhancing the employment prospects of rural people who leave the land," the report continues.

The time to implement the promises in the Paris climate agreement is now, it states, particularly as industrial farms are known to account for at least one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions.

In a message for World Food Day, Ban called on countries to address the impact of climate change on food security in their climate goals, writing, "As the global population expands, we will need to satisfy an increasing demand for food. Yet, around the world, record-breaking temperatures, rising sea levels, and more frequent and severe droughts and floods caused by climate change are already affecting ecosystems, agriculture, and society's ability to produce the food we need."

"To bolster food security in a changing climate, countries must address food and agriculture in their climate action plans and invest more in rural development," he continued, urging all governments to "take a holistic, collaborative, and integrated approach to climate change, food security, and equitable social and economic development."

A recent report from Friends of the Earth International came to similar conclusions, saying global leaders' "first priority" should be supporting small scale farmers.

FAO director general José Graziano da Silva wrote in a forward to the report, "'Business as usual' is not an option. Agriculture has always been the interface between natural resources and human activity. Today it holds the key to solving the two greatest challenges facing humanity: eradicating poverty, and maintaining the stable climatic corridor in which civilization can thrive."

"We cannot allow the impacts of climate change to overshadow our vision of a world free of hunger and malnutrition, where food and agriculture contribute to improving the living standards of all, especially the poorest," he said. "No one can be left behind."


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