Climate change has affected rainfall variability in a way that extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and erratic rainfall has affected agricultural productivity and led to global food insecurity. In response to this, the current course of growth in agricultural production is unsustainable because of its adverse impacts on natural resources and the environment.
Faced with the scourge of food insecurity from declining crop yield, the challenges farmers are facing today include:
- Severe loss of income from agricultural activities.
- Upto 30 percent of farmland degraded through over-farming.
- Upto 75 percent of crop genetic diversity lost.
- Upto 22 percent of animal breeds are at risk.
- More than fifty percent of fish stock suffering over-exploitation.
- The annual loss of 13 million hectares of forests to other land uses.
- To put things on red alert, studies have shown that some of the highest population growth is predicted in areas which are dependent on agriculture and already have high rates of food insecurity.
Eco Relief is addressing these interlinked challenges of food security and climate change by building capacity for the implementation of Climate-Smart agriculture (CSA). This is an integrated approach that explicitly aims for three objectives:
1. Sustainable increase in agricultural productivity through changes in approaches and technology.
This entails changing the approaches and technologies used in agricultural systems, especially in developing economies to increase yield. In order to meet the growing food demand of the over nine billion people projected to exist by the year 2050 and the expected nutritional changes, the agricultural sector needs to produce 60 percent more food globally in the same period. And during this time, close to one-third of food produced – 1.3 billion tons per year – is lost or wasted worldwide throughout the supply chain, with enormous environmental and financial costs.
2. Adapting and building multi-dimensional resilience of agricultural and food security systems to climate change.
The essence of adaptation is to deploy systems such as agroforestry; with intercropping and the use of high-yielding and drought/disease-resistant crop and livestock species to increase yield. Agriculture in broad terms (crops, livestock production, fisheries, and forestry products) has a strong link between its growth and poverty alleviation and hunger eradication. It provides income, jobs and other services to the majority of people living in poverty in developing countries. Consequently, overall GDP growth from agriculture has been shown to be at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth generated in non-agriculture sectors, and up to five times more effective than other sectors in resource poor low-income countries.
3. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.
The novelty about Climate-Smart Agriculture, as shown by the Food and Agricultural organisation, is an explicit focus on climatic risks that are happening rapidly and with grand intensity than in the past. Confronting these climate risks requires remarkable changes in agricultural technologies and approaches that lead to reduction in cutting and burning of forests, reduction of soil degradation as well as less use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.