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Political Will to Co-operate is Needed to Tackle the World's Food and Climate Challenges

posted 13 Dec 2010, 04:58 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 13 Dec 2010, 05:00 ]

Comprehending the huge numbers that fill the news on climate
change, global poverty and the global economic crisis is
hard and that makes it even harder not to despair.

There is a sense that everywhere we look things are
spiralling out of control and the problems that beset the
planet and its inhabitants are of such dimensions that they
are impossible to grasp.

As the annual climate change talks stumble on in Cancun,
Mexico, with little optimism for binding agreement as each
country argues and negotiates over its own position the UK's
Committee on Climate Change has this week, for example,
suggested a binding commitment to cut carbon emissions by
60% by the year 2030. Visualising what impact that might
have on our lives in practical terms is nearly impossible.

There are some equally staggering figures in the latest
annual poverty report for 2011 recently issued by the
International Fund for Agricultural Development. The report
is focused on the prospects for food production and farming
given the projected increase in the global population to 9
billion by 2050. This will mean increasing food production
by as much as 70%, when there is already a situation of
tension around the world about land use, little fertile land
left to develop and the increasingly unstable weather coming
out of global warming and climate change are making life
even more difficult for farmers.

There have been some successes in reducing poverty, says the
IFAD, most noticeably in Chine, but the situation in S Asia
and Africa appears to be getting worse.In the developing
world, it says, around 80% of the population is rural and
that is where the worst poverty is found.

In these countries there are some 500 million small farmers
producing 80% of their countries' food supplies. But they
are battling increasingly harsh and unpredictable climate
conditions to do so and barely subsisting themselves.

When a recent report in the UK revealed that a quarter of
all its farmers were also struggling with poverty and lack
of any profit to rely on small farmers in the developing
world to increase production to the level that is predicted
to be needed by 2050 seems like an almost impossible task.

The IFAD has highlighted what needs to be done, however, and
it requires what it calls 'joined-up' government across
different ministries, and a breaking down of some
traditional distinctions between social and economic
policies and programmes. It says that the main areas of
focus should be the strengthening the individual and
collective capabilities of rural populations, improving the
overall rural environment and reducing the level of risk
rural populations live with. What that means is investment
in infrastructure, access to markets, sustainable farming
and knowledge sharing of new agricultural technologies.

The UK has recently pledged £37 million in aid over
three years to overseas farmers to help them develop new
crops that can combat climate change. An example of such a
crop that has been successful is Scuba rice that can survive
under water for two weeks.

Plainly technologies, for example GM seeds and crops, or
low-chem agricultural products such as the more natural
range of biopesticides, yield enhancers and biofungicides do
already exist. It is making them accessible to small-scale
farmers with little to invest and without the knowledge of
how to use them that is the challenge, and that is where the
"joined-up" government both nationally and internationally
comes in, if governments can muster the political will to do

About the Author:

Ali Withers says the incomprehensibly huge numbers filling
the news on a daily basis make it hard not to despair about
climate change, global poverty and food scarcity, but
sharing knowledge globally on new farming technologies like
low-chem yield enhancers could begin to make a difference.