With COP26 underway, much of the global climate discussion focuses on efforts to reduce and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by moving to cleaner and more efficient energy. And rightly so – we have the opportunity to drastically mitigate the damage that will be inflicted on our planet in the years to come.
But as we continue to witness the devastating effects of climate change around the world, we need to pay more attention to solutions that will help us adapt to the changes that are already taking place and consider how to ensure that people everywhere have access to them. The global climate crisis already affects many people who depend on agriculture to survive.
As the world gathers for COP26, this requires urgent action.
In almost all emissions scenarios, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that global warming will reach 1.5 ° C in the early 2030s and we can be sure that the impact of this change will not be felt in fair way around the world. One of the most worrying results of rising temperatures is the very high risk of malnutrition in communities that depend on dryland agriculture.
Arid zones are home to more than 2.5 billion people and cover 40% of the world’s land surface.
In many dryland countries, such as Botswana or Burkina Faso, populations face a multitude of environmental challenges, from water scarcity and drought to extreme temperatures and floods. They are particularly vulnerable to climate change and suffer some of the largest concentrations of food insecurity and poverty in the world.
One of the most vulnerable arid regions is Sub-Saharan Africa, home to some of the fastest growing populations in the world, many of which have been struggling with food crises for years. Farming communities in the region will now suffer from the effects of climate change more severely than developed countries, even if they have done little to cause the problem. Some experts predict that we will see an almost 5% decrease in agricultural production for each degree of global warming.
To avoid even more severe hunger crises in the region, we need to build stronger food systems for smallholder farmers. They are the anchor for the food systems that feed billions. But they often face obstacles to effectively enter or engage in markets for their agricultural production, which limits their ability to make a profit from agriculture. Many are constrained by inadequate systems and policies that make it difficult for them to be profitable or to grow enough nutritious food. And now hundreds of millions of people who depend on agriculture to survive are losing their crops and livestock to a wave of extreme climatic conditions.
Investments in agricultural research and development will help provide the tools needed to adapt to changing weather patterns and build resilient food systems that can produce more and better nutrition for communities, as well as greater economic stability.
While the world is developing cutting-edge technologies, tools and best practices for climate-friendly agriculture, these resources are not being developed consistently or shared widely with small-scale producers in the global South. Indeed, despite significant advances in agricultural development in recent decades, the majority of farmers on the African continent remain smallholders with limited access to key resources, systems, services and technologies.
Addressing the negative impact of climate change on developing countries should start with promoting innovation through significant investment in agricultural research. Importantly, we need to find ways to link global innovation to local knowledge. Productivity and prosperity will be achieved through climate-friendly agricultural innovation that is adapted and applied to local contexts, while contributing to a growing body of evidence for large-scale transformation.
And because we invest in innovation, we must ensure that the solutions produced are inclusive. This means guaranteeing small-scale producers in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions of the global South access to the tools that enable agricultural productivity in changing climatic conditions and access to thriving markets. It also means special attention to women and young people to ensure that they too have the power to contribute to the challenge.
Ultimately, supporting smallholder farmers will not only build more resilient food systems. It will also strengthen the economies in the countries that are left behind. Small-scale farmers provide most of the jobs in fast-growing regions such as sub-Saharan Africa. And agriculture is effective in reducing poverty and improving food security for 65 percent of the world’s poor, who work primarily in agriculture.
Empowering smallholder farmers and addressing all aspects of climate change, including adaptation and resilience, is of growing importance to all global partners attending COP26 today and a growing interest in both the Qatar Fund for Development and Gates. Foundation. It will help revive the region’s economies and improve people’s ability to respond and adapt to climate change. If we do not invest in inclusive adaptation solutions, we risk losing the full climate picture, but also losing the global fight against hunger and poverty.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.